SLO County upstarts grab a slice of cannabis kingpin’s empire

August 10, 2022

Helios Dayspring

By KAREN VELIE

When San Luis Obispo picked the people who would operate three marijuana retail shops in the city, they selected Helios Dayspring and his Natural Healing Center. They also got a group of people who were behind Megan’s Organic Market and another group who applied under SLOCal Roots.

The Megan’s Organic and SLOCal Roots applicants said on their forms that they were independent and using their own money to start their businesses. Things moved forward and Dayspring continued as San Luis Obispo’s marijuana mogul.

Then in 2020, Dayspring was charged with bribing public officials and falsifying his tax returns.

Initially, the city didn’t mind. Those crimes were not tied to selling marijuana. He transferred control of Natural Healing Center into the hands of his girlfriend, and the city initially found that acceptable.

But after that, the city took away his license saying that he lied on his application. City administrators explained that Dayspring lied about breaking the law and cheating on his taxes.

Dayspring says that’s not fair because the people from Megan’s Organic and SLOCal Roots also lied on their applications, according to a Dayspring declaration and interviews with a former employee.

They said their were funding their shops independently and on their own. That was a lie, Dayspring says and he should know because he loaned them hundreds of thousands of dollars to get started. The loans were supposed to turn into an ownership stake in each shop, maintaining Dayspring’s control of marijuana in San Luis Obispo.

Dayspring was San Luis Obispo’s marijuana mogul. For years, those wanting a piece of the retail cannabis industry pie in SLO County were told to kiss Dayspring’s ring, or have no chance of success. Dayspring reportedly owned a piece of every retail cannabis shop in the county, according to documents, several of his top employees and a Grover Beach cannabis business owner.

Former SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon and Helios Dayspring

Dayspring had forged a close relationship with former Mayor Heidi Harmon. He hired her friend and co-founder of the SLO County Progressives, Nick Andre, to help run his cannabis operation.

In 2020, when the city initially picked three applicants to run retail marijuana shops in San Luis Obispo, Dayspring was well-positioned. He owned Natural Healing Center and had ties to Megan’s Organic Market. He was not connected with Elemental Wellness. The three had come out on top in a points rating system that the city used.

Shortly after the top three were announced, several city staffers, who asked not to be named to protect their jobs, said city officials wanted staff to change the scores to knock Elemental Wellness out. The employees refused.

The city asked a SLO police detective to interview the applicants. During the April 2020 interviews, police detective Suzie Walsh asked odd questions such as, “Have you ever been cruel to animals? Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit? Have you ever had a building code violation?” Even though Walsh does not have a business background, she inspected a number of corporate and business documents.

Walsh also voiced concerns that minority partners with Elemental Wellness had limited or no involvement in the preparation of the city application, a common practice in business. However, she did not require the same level of involvement with minority partners of Natural Healing Center, one of Dayspring’s partners said.

Based on Walsh’s report, then chief Deanna Cantrell asked city management to disqualify Elemental Wellness, giving SLOCal Roots the third permit.

Dayspring found locations for each retailer working with property owners Levi Seligman and Keith Sweeney. Seligman and Sweeney would eventually have a stake in Megan’s Organic.

Dayspring came up with an $800,000 convertible promissory note to fund Megan’s Organic Market and signed an agreement to have his employees manage the marijuana retail store, according to the documents. A partner in one of Dayspring’s shops said he was supposed to manage Megan’s Organic after it opened, but he had a falling out with Dayspring. CalCoastNews is not using the former partner’s name to protect him from retaliation.

Andre was one of Dayspring’s employees and there is a dispute whether Dayspring gave him a part of the $800,000 loan, but the convertible promissory note names him and an interest in Megan’s Organic.

“The membership interest to be issued upon conversion shall consist of 47 percent membership interest in the company issued to Helios Dayspring and 3 percent membership interest in the company issued to Nicholas Andre,” according to the convertible promissory note.

Dustin Tardiff, the attorney for Megan’s Organic, insists Dayspring did not give Andre a cut of the promissory note and says that Andre quit working for Dayspring before taking the job at Megan’s Organic.

Documents initially filed with the city showed ownership of Megan’s Organic split among six people. Megan Souza would have a 31.5 percent stake; Eric Powers another 31.5 percent, Melissa Seligman, 9.5 percent; Levi Seligman, 8 percent; Lindsey Law, 9.5 percent; and, Keith Sweeney 8 percent.

Dayspring’s convertible loan agreement shows the note could turn into a 46 percent ownership interest in Megan’s Organic for him and a reduction in several partners’ percentages.

Megan’s Organic opened in the summer of 2020.

On March 11, 2020, FBI agents raided Dayspring’s home on the outskirts of SLO. He pled guilty to bribing San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill and falsifying his tax returns.

SLO city officials terminated Dayspring’s application for his Natural Healing Center SLO retail store on Oct. 19, 2021 after determining he had lied on his application.

MOM USA LLC, a company started by the newer investors, purchased the convertible note, and the owners of Megan’s Organic paid Dayspring back, Tardiff said. Tardiff then moved partial ownership of Megan’s Organic to a group of people tied to himself and Andre.

Nick Andre

Tardiff asked the city in 2021 to transfer ownership in Megan’s Organic from Melissa Seligman, Levi Seligman, Lindsey Law and Keith Sweeney to Alison Borges, Tarrah Graves, Jillian Cardona and Phoebe Lapari, according to the email from the city to Tardiff.

Borges, the then-girlfriend and now wife of Andre, is an elementary school teacher. She has not returned questions about how she secured ownership in a multi-million dollar retail cannabis store.

Tardiff said Andre did not transfer the ownership interest to his girlfriend. She “purchased the shares.”

Graves is Tardiff’s wife, according to a 2015 grant deed. Tardiff said his wife also purchased shares.

Jillian Cardona is related to Mark Cardona, general counsel for MOM USA LLC.

ODLAS Investments LLC, which is owned by Tyler and Marian Saldo, now owns 8% of Megan’s. Saldo is Tardiff’s law partner

Dayspring accuses the city of canceling his permit for dishonesty while looking the other way when Megan’s Organic provided false information, in a declaration in support of a lawsuit filed against the city. In its application, Megan’s Organic claimed all its financial capital originated from its ownership team.

“All of our financial capital comes directly from our ownership team which we believe sets us apart from other applicants who may be dependent on out-of-area funding,” according to the application.

According to SLO City Attorney Christine Dietrick, having funding from other sources would not disqualify Megan’s Organic and that there is no evidence they were dishonest under penalty of perjury.

“Based on information provided by the permit holders under penalty of perjury, we have not concluded that the applicants failed to disclose information that was required by the application at that time,” Dietrick said.


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don

CalCoast has done a splendid job uncovering the corruption involving Megan’s Organic Market, SLOCAL Roots, Helios Dayspring, Nick Andre, Quinn Brady and the local City’s of San Luis Obispo County. They have fallen short however. MOM INC is a Delaware Corporation that owns MOM USA LLC. This is how Helios’ organized crime group is hiding Helios’ ownership of the entire front operation. Dig a little dipper CalCoast. Perhaps the FBI will need to search the offices of the criminals’ attorney as they are clearly involved in the fraud and racketeering.


obispan

“Helios” has a point. It takes two to tango, and GB, SLO and MB did. Hopefully Paso will use an ABC-style lottery system, but I doubt it, it just begs corruption too much to resist.


Myself

What a filthy mess, many of us could see this stink coming when Ca allowed dope to be legal and the city and county got in on the act, this has bred a whole new bunch of liers and crooks, half the city council of San Luis and Morro Bay were at daysprings place for a little New Years cheer a few years ago and no one could see the writing on the wall, and yet these people don’t get prosecuted, but by golly get caught with out a seat belt on and lookout, San Luis is on our butt.


Adam Trask

Kudos to Ms. Velie for her cogent reporting.


This stuff is typical of a capitalist economy. Bribes, favoritism, corruption, were all part of the birth of many businesses, especially the alcohol industry after the repeal of prohibition. We are only in the infancy of the cannabis industry and mistakes will be made.


Figures such as Dayspring will come and go, but in the long run, cannabis will be a viable money maker for all involved. Like alcohol or caffeine or chocolate or widgets, there is always demand, and now that cannabis is legal the free market will work things out.


Jorge Estrada

“The free market will work things out”, Yes it will and our county will be building a homeless village for the losers in this new venture. Dope and all drugs come with mentally challenged results, so plan on the funding shift from infrastructure to the expanding tiny village. Remember we need to take care of those who make bad choices, oh and more government jobs to facilitate this. Not Capitalism, communism right before the dumbed down eyes.


nyx

Homeless ppl aren’t losers. Your mind set tells me you are though.


nyx

Yes. The favoritism pushed into descrimination around the bush presidency.


shishkabob141

Why is it that Nick Andre’s name is associated with nearly every crook in the county?

Does anyone else smell the stink on Bruce Gibson & Jimmy Paulding?

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!


SLOBodan

What??? I’m so confused!


Jorge Estrada

You got it.


Jorge Estrada

We accept that the U.S. Drug Cartel is accustomed to, ” I solemnly swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me god,” in their upbringing, in their practice, by their successors and with all this honesty they get wealthy selling dope. It’s legal, we are obese and we have the leadership we voted for. This is step 1 in the 12 step program for Ignoramus Anonymous.


nyx

1. Religion is made up.

2. Weed is safe.


bb

I remember when Megan’s Organic market was just a delivery and they grew all their own weed. At that time they were a decent dispensary with reasonable prices. Then the county sued Megan’s back in 2017 over their grow, don’t know what the results of the lawsuit were. But Megan’s shutdown their delivery operation after that and didn’t open back up again until they got their store front. Why would the county award Megan’s Organic market a store front just a few years after suing Megan’s over their grow and shutting down their delivery and grow operations?


kayaknut

Easy answer, Helios’s money, influence, and bribes. Anyone tied to Helios should lose their permits, and all corrupt officials fired and jailed but we all know neither will happen.