Top San Luis Obispo County stories in 2022: special favors and fraud

January 2, 2023

Jeremy Pemberton

By CalCoastNews staff

To say 2022 was an eventful year in San Luis Obispo County would be an understatement. The top 10 stories of 2022 include a developer being found quilt of theft and fraud and SLO County Supervisor seeking special favors.

7. SLO developer found guilty of fraud and theft

A jury found local developer Jeremy Pemberton, 38, guilty of two counts of securities fraud, one count of financial elder abuse, and two counts of grand theft related to his attempt to garner investors for a proposed bowling alley, restaurant and bar in San Luis Obispo.

While Jeremy Pemberton and his twin brothers were soliciting local investors, the twins’ were battling claims of fraud and a bankruptcy in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Ignoring the claims of fraud, San Luis Obispo city officials voted in favor of the brother’s plans. Jeremy Pemberton then fraudulently obtaining in excess of $500,000 from one victim and more than $200,000 from another. He misrepresented the amount of financing he had received from other investors and failed to disclose a default on the lease for 1144 Chorro Street in San Luis Obispo.

Jeremy Pemberton faces a prison sentence of up 16 years, four months in jail. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 7.

Gibson’s next-door neighbor’s house

8. Special favors benefit SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson

Supervisor Bruce Gibson and county staff skirted both planning regulations and state law to allow Gibson to build a 727-square-foot addition and 208-square-foot deck.

When Gibson’s home was built decades ago in Cayucos, it was placed less than 2 feet from the property line, which currently makes it a legal non-conforming structure. The minimum set back requirement is 3 feet for a conforming structure, while 4 feet is usually required.

During the process of approving the project, county documents showed a 23-inch setback.

When the special treatment was uncovered, SLO County staff, (1) took documents from the file offline, (2) said the documents did not exist, (3) said they were not sure where the documents were and could have been lost, and, (4) that there were no documents for property exemptions for the project.

Gibson then won reelection by 13 votes.

John Belsher and Ryan Petetit-Wright

9. Feds accuse SLO County developers of money laundering and wire fraud

The FBI is probing San Luis Obispo County developer Ryan Wright in connection with wire fraud, money laundering and tax charges, a SLO superior court judge revealed while tentatively ruling that Wright would have to give a deposition in a civil case.

The Jeffrey Chase and Debora Chase Revocable Living Trust accused Wright and his partner John Belsher of bilking them out of more than $2 million in three development projects using promises of high returns from the developments, according to a lawsuit.

In an attempt to crush a deposition request, Wright’s attorneys argued his testimony, under oath in the civil case, could be used against him in a criminal trial.

Wright learned from the U.S. Attorney’s Office that he was the target of an FBI investigation into “wire fraud and money laundering, ‘among other charges,’ ” in June 2020, his lawyer said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rybarczyk told Wright’s attorney that, “the government had obtained approvals to present an indictment to the grand jury charging Wright with, among other charges, wire fraud.”

Belsher and Wright are connected with San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill who committed suicide during an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption.

In 2014, Hill served as a paid consultant for Belsher and Wright’s PB Companies, exclusively reported by CalCoastNews in 2015.

Tobin James Shumrick

10. Threats, negative ads target SLO County district attorney, before hatchet buried

Paso Robles winemaker Tobin James Shumrick ran a four-week-long series of ads targeting San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow’s reelection beginning in March. Shumrick accused Dow and SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson of not doing enough to protect his family, his employees and himself during six months of harassment from a neighbor, Gabriel David Canaday.

“Hey Dan Dow, Are you getting ready for your re election?” Shumrick wrote in a Feb. 22 email. “I am too you corrupt Mother Fucker. I’m looking forward to telling everyone who you really are. You’re a fucking lying criminal. We’re going to see how you like being stalked you little bitch. You better raise more money for you’re campaign you are going to need it. I’m going to make sure everyone in the county knows what a fucking coward piece of shit you are. Go fuck yourself Dan.”

After a contentious couple of years, Shumrick and Dow buried the hatchet with the help of radio personality Adam Montiel.

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SLO City Council appears to be totally corrupt from my perspective. I’m amazed and shocked by all the pay-to-play stories in SLO.