SLO cannabis business owners play multi-million dollar shell game

November 5, 2021

By KAREN VELIE

Cannabis business owners in San Luis Obispo County are swapping properties and retail outlets worth millions of dollars as they fight to keep licenses and stay in business. And they continue to court public officials and employees following a federal investigation into bribery and tax fraud.

Helios Dayspring, a local marijuana mogul, transferred ownership of his retail cannabis shops to his girlfriend, Valnette Garcia, in 2020, before he pled guilty to tax fraud and bribery charges. In October, city staff canceled approval for the Natural Healing Center cannabis shop because Dayspring had not disclosed the bribery or the fraud during the application process.

That was not legal, Attorneys Randall Fox and Mark Beck argued in a meeting with SLO City officials. “Dayspring has no connection” with the retail store they said. Beck also described Dayspring’s bribes as “gratuities” given to “show appreciation.” Dayspring pled guilty to paying $32,000 in bribes to then-San Luis Obispo Supervisor Adam Hill for favorable votes on his cannabis business interests

Valnette Garcia

But, city attorney Christine Dietrick replied that Dayspring was currently involved in directing work at the site. She said he was creating a security plan for the business.

Fox defended Dayspring’s involvement saying he owns the property through SLO Broad LLC.

“He owns the building and he is obligated to complete the building and turn it over to NHC,” Fox said.

Dayspring, however, just recently purchased the property at 2640 Broad Street from several owners of Megan’s Organic Markets.

On Dec. 9, 2019, utilizing a $1.5 million loan from Dayspring, the property was transferred into CCKL Broad LLC, with members Levi Seligman, Keith Sweeney and Christopher Wright.

Dayspring purchased the property for $4.2 million on Sept. 15, 2021, with Levi Seligman signing the grant deed.

Seligman and Sweeney are owners of Megan’s Organic Markets, one of the three approved marijuana shops in SLO, according to city records. One of Dayspring’s former partners, who is not being named because of safety concerns, contends Dayspring also owns a portion of Megan’s Organic Markets

In the past, Dayspring has often been the primary owner of a project, even though formal paperwork does not indicate so. Dayspring has a long history of using limited liability companies in a scheme to conceal ownership stakes and under-report his income from cannabis sales. Dayspring has purchased real estate in employees’ names and later transferred the properties over to one of his companies, property records show.

While he spent millions on property, Dayspring claimed he made approximately $50,000 a year, employees said. The FBI and the IRS raided Dayspring’s home in March of 2020 and he pled guilty to the tax and bribery charges in Oct. 2021. He was to pay $3.4 million to the IRS, and cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation, as part of a plea agreement.

Seligman, Sweeney and Wright are also partners in a marijuana grow near the top of the Cuesta Grade, along with Mitch Woolpert. Even though several agencies voiced concerns about their Green Gold Organic Collective project, it sailed quickly through the SLO County approval process.

Caltrans staff questioned the growers’ plans to access the property from the east side of Highway 101, near the top of the grade, on a fire road owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

“Currently, this driveway access is a designated fire road with a locked gate; Caltrans has no plans to remove the gate and convert this location into a full access public connection,” according to Caltrans correspondence to the county. “At this time, Caltrans would not issue an encroachment permit for work within our ROW at this location that would support the intensification of land use.”

The Santa Margarita Advisory Council asked the county to “request a sign-off from the U.S. Forest Service for use of the road prior to final approval of the project.”

Even though federal laws and county regulations prohibit cannabis cultivation “on sites that are surrounded by federal land or on property where the only access to a site is through federal land,” the SLO County Planning Commission approved the project on July 9, 2020.

Mark Woolpert, the owner of the property, said a neighbor is permitting them to access the cannabis farm through their property, an assertion the neighbor said is not true.

In an odd twist, the county lists Mark Woolpert as the owner of the Mt. Lowe Road property, with Heidi Harmon owning a percentage, which Mark Woolpert said was an error. Mark Woolpert said he knows two Heidi Harmons, the former mayor of SLO and a former employee, and that neither are involved in the property ownership or the pot farm.

Former-mayor Heidi Harmon did not return requests for comment. Mark Woolpert’s former employee denied any ownership of the property.

Former SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon and Helios Dayspring

On her financial disclosure forms for 2018, former-mayor Harmon reported three donations from affiliates of Dayspring’s Natural Healing Center, eight from affiliates of Megan’s Organics Market and four linked to the third winner of a SLO pot shop permit, SLO Cal Roots.

On the form, Harmon reports donor Christopher Wright, an owner of the Green Gold grow and former owner of the Natural Healing Center SLO property, lives at 473 Bernardo Avenue in Morro Bay, which is also the mailing address for the Green Gold cannabis farm.

Harmon reported receiving donations that coincided with a Dayspring fundraiser, from both Bonnie and Jamie Saucedo with an address also at 473 Bernardo Avenue in Morro Bay. The Saucedo’s daughter, Marissa Saucedo, is an owner of SLO Cal Roots.

After CalCoastNews questioned money Harmon received during the days surrounding Dayspring’s fundraiser, she filed an amended 460 report that no longer included the Bonnie Saucedo and Jamie Saucedo donations.

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Eerie Calm

“Beck also described Dayspring’s bribes as ‘gratuities’ given to ‘show appreciation.’” –> This makes city council members sound like sex workers, lol!


Isn’t the cannabis use permit tied to the property? Why is Dayspring being allowed to continue his involvement as the building owner?


At least we are seeing the cannabis corruption playbook through NHC’s actions. This will help the FBI identify other companies who follow the same shell game pattern as NHC.


For example, the OTHER company that also ranked last in cannabis permit application scores (even behind NHC) in Morro Bay but still received a permit may merit additional scrutiny too.


The second Morro Bay permitee’s parent company is currently involved in an alleged shell game lawsuit against the city of South Lake Tahoe. The permitee was supposed to open in SLT in 2020 — the same year they opened Morro Bay and multiple other retail locations.


But yet the same permitee posted a notice on their website shortly after the lawsuit was filed in October saying their intellectual property had been stolen by their own business partners. In reality, the permitee didn’t put the leadership team listed on the SLT permit application on the LLC paperwork filed with the state. Their website notice was posted and then strangely taken down within 24 hours.


We either need ZERO CAPS on cannabis permits or we should follow the lead of El Dorado County and make permits EXPIRE AUTOMATICALLY with any ownership change. (Ironically, SLT is located in El Dorado County.)


Another thing to investigate is how the money paid by cannabis companies to the City of Morro Bay is being spent…


paragon

LOL “No, it’s not THAT Heidi Harmon, it’s some other Heidi Harmon that I also know, but it’s not her property either. It’s all a big mistake.” That has to be one of the worst attempted lies ever invented.


So… if it’s an error and neither Heidi Harmon actually owns a percentage, then how would he possibly know WHICH Heidi was erroneously listed?


805thirdeye

Yes! This shows how bad the local wolves are; they think we are too dumb to start paying attention and calling them out. I am shocked there are not more individuals calling out the behavior of locally educated profiteers. I realize it is difficult when you are part of the pyramid scheme yourself (i.e. hiring people you grew up with) knowing they’ll be stuck in between a rock and a hard place in order to be able to afford living the SLOlife. It is an embarrassment to the now retired good people of SLO who gave us the community they are now screwing over under the guise of needing housing. Notice, they are not pushing for affordable housing, no, they’re building mcmansions for more Orange County transplants. The SLOlife is dead as we once knew it – from the elementary schools to the colleges. One example is the journalism department at CalPoly. Teufel knows better & his parents would say so – corruption everywhere and not a peep of investigative reporting from our local publicly funded college’s journalism department. And you’re worried about what your kids are being taught in schools!


Whyaduck

Why do I rarely hear the names Cory Black and Nick Andre? Karen, are they involved somehow?


805thirdeye

Again, follow the money. Black and Andre are pawns.


805thirdeye
805thirdeye

http://youtu.be/17Vf12bsK_E One Chris Richardson, answering the SLO Chamber, about how he came to be in San Luis Obispo. He doesn’t appear to even know for certain; he cannot look at the camera. Is it because he has turned SLO into Torrance/Redondo Beach while doing nothing for anyone else? It would seem someone in the community, so successful, would do more for the community he claims and has made himself wealthy thru development.


805thirdeye

I’m curious, how deep is Heidi Harmon with the Richardson father/son duo?


fredpacker

Balls-deep.


805thirdeye

Giggling at that response! Maybe former mayor Harmon realized how much she was being used and that explains her dramatic exit. Or it’s the FBI? Can we get a pool going on this stuff b/c us taxpayers are gonna need a payout of our own to cover our losses in benefits and pensions to these jokers.


805thirdeye

Who owns the pet hospital building adjacent to Megan’s Market?