MARTINEZ – An Orinda man formerly at the helm of a real estate investment company pleaded not guilty to felony charges of embezzlement, theft and forgery Monday morning.
Carl Blake Miller’s bail was set at $327,500, reduced from the original $416,000. The difference will be secured by two properties in Alameda County, including the longtime residence of Miller’s father-in-law.
A court hearing to set a date for Miller's preliminary hearing was pushed to Sept. 22 to give his legal team more time to investigate the allegations.
Miller is accused of taking roughly $1 million from a handful of investors, said Ken McCormick, lead attorney in the district attorney’s real estate division.
Miller cheated clients out of their money by orchestrating Ponzi schemes or giving investors fraudulent information, McCormick said.
One of the nine counts is embezzling $16,000 from Orinda Boy Scout Troop 327.
Miller, who was treasurer of the troop until 2010, took the money out for several weeks and then returned it, which still constitutes a felony despite the fact that the money was returned.
Fred Mendes, a retired San Francisco physician, said that he lost about 90 percent of his worth to Miller.
After living frugally for years, Mendes stopped working right around the time he met Miller. Though Miller’s business plan sounded solid, it was flimsy, Mendes said.
Now, he said, he is trying to send two daughters through college. Both want to follow in their father’s footsteps and attend medical school.
But the hit to Mendes’ finances is making it harder to pay for that.
“It’s affected my ability to conduct normal family affairs,” he said.
The alleged acts likely were prompted by the collapse of Miller’s real estate business, which he ran for about 10 years, coupled with an expensive lifestyle, McCormick said. As the bubble deflated, Miller built and remodeled his mansion, sent his children to private school in Oakland and took extravagant vacations.
Miller was formerly employed by RE Loans, which is connected to Bar-K, Inc. – an investment group that is the subject of a large federal investigation, McCormick said.
The district attorney’s office began investigating Miller more than a year ago, after several victims requested help.
Other investors took over the $10 million fund managed by Miller after getting wind that he was misusing the money.
Miller was arrested July 14.
Though there are reports that he has lost other investors millions more, prosecutors are not pursuing them.
“We only follow when he just completely steals and cheats,” McCormick said.
Since the real-estate market collapsed, there has been an increase in such crimes, he added.