Judge denies San Luis Obispo developers bid to delay trial

September 21, 2023

John Belsher and Ryan Wright


A judge denied a request this week from developers Ryan Wright and John Belsher to delay their trial scheduled for Oct. 17 in San Luis Obispo.

In a lawsuit filed nearly five years ago, the Jeffrey Chase and Debora Chase Revocable Living Trust accuses Wright and Belsher of bilking them out of more than $2 million in three development projects using promises of high returns from the developments.

Additionally, the suit accuses Belsher of violating State Bar rules of professional conduct. Belsher advised his clients to invest in his and Wright’s construction projects, many of which were never completed, the civil suit stated.

Wright, who changed his name from Petetit after he pled guilty to assaulting a girlfriend, asked the court to delay the trial so he could secure an attorney. Roy Ogden had represented Wright.

On June 16, Ogden filed a motion to withdraw as Wright’s attorney. He attempted to serve the motion on Wright at two addresses, where Wright no longer lived. In addition, Ogden did not serve Belsher the motion as required by law.

Regardless, Judge Barry La Barbera granted Ogden’s motion to be relieved as counsel on Aug. 1, the date the two defendants claim they first learned of Ogden’s plan to withdraw as counsel.

With Belsher temporarily representing Wright, the defendants asked the court to delay their trial in a case that has crawled through the legal system.

“There have been conflicts in representation of Mr. Wright in other litigation matters resulting in disagreements concerning litigation strategies,” Belsher argued. “In short, Mr. Wright needs to secure his own independent counsel.”

In a declaration, Wright claims Ogden failed to inform him of his withdrawal in the case, which he learned about from Belsher.

“Since learning of the withdrawal of Mr. Ogden, I have reached out to other counsel I know but they are not from San Luis Obispo, so I have not been able to secure new counsel,” Wright wrote.

Newly appointed Superior Court Judge Michael Kelley denied their request for a delay, saying not having counsel does “not warrant a continuance of the trial date.”

Multiple investors in Belsher and Wright’s development projects have filed lawsuits against the pair for allegedly bilking them out of money with promises of high interest on secured investments.


In 2012, Belsher and Wright created PB Companies. Since then, their portfolio has grown to include more than a dozen projects that Belsher and Wright valued at more than $300 million in 2015.

“The company was founded to create investment solutions and equity plays in the real estate and business world where the legal and financial expertise of the principals would generate a great climate of success for the company and its investors,” the PB Companies website said.

Belsher and Wright secured money from banks, hard money lenders and private investors, according to county records. In some cases, investors have been promised rates of return between 20 to 50 percent, according to an email from Wright to a potential investor.

Since becoming partners, Belsher and Wright have been under fire for reportedly not paying subcontractors, bouncing checks, commingling investor funds, diverting investment monies and utilizing shell companies.

Belsher and Wright found it easy to obtain building permits, as well as what appear to be special favors, from San Luis Obispo City staff and officials – despite falsifying contractor license numbers, disabling water meters and violating a variety of building codes.

By 2014, multiple contractors and vendors said Belsher and Wright were not paying them for their work, and were instead funneling monies to two companies the pair owned, Axis Engineering and Wright Homes and Communities. Belsher and Wright created Axis Engineering in 2012 and Wright Homes in 2013, the California Secretary of State website shows.

In 2014, Wright was arrested for and charged with two misdemeanor counts for writing bad checks. The charges were dismissed after Wright agreed to enter the San Luis Obispo County bad check program, according to court records.

John Belsher, former SLO mayor Jan Marx, Adam Hill and Jody Belsher

In 2014, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill served as a paid consultant for PB Companies whose project plans Hill openly promoted, according to government records retrieved by CalCoastNews.

Hill identified himself on a statement of information filed with the state as the “managing member” of San Luis Consulting, one of 33 limited liability corporations tied to PB Companies. Hill reported that he was paid $10,001 to $100,000 in 2014 for what he described as “writing, editing, and coaching.”

Hill later denied that he was working for PB Companies.

On July 13, 2015, Hill testified in favor of PB Companies’ Marsh Street project at a joint meeting of the SLO City Architectural Review Committee and the Cultural Heritage Committee.

By fall 2015, Belsher and Wright had been in court over multiple financial controversies because of their failures to pay contractors and for not following building code regulations. In addition, Wright had been charged with five felonies and six misdemeanors for issues including assault, writing bad checks and public intoxication.

On Nov. 22, 2015, Wright assaulted his girlfriend at a home they shared in Arroyo Grande. Wright pushed the victim knocking her to the ground, grabbed her by the throat and began choking her. He then dragged her to her feet and shoved her head through a bathroom window, shattering the glass.

In 2016, Jonathan Westbay and his sister Crystal Westbay filed a suit claiming Belsher and Wright engaged in fraud and deception in order to lure them to invest in PB Companies and provide access to their property.

In 2018, Belsher and Wright filed multiple bankruptcies associated with controversial projects in San Luis Obispo and Templeton which could lead to the projects failing.

FBI agents served a search warrant on then-SLO County Board of Supervisors Chair Adam Hill’s home on March 11, 2020, at the same time they were searching his office at the County Building. The warrant noted allegations of wrongdoing linked to Belsher and Wright as well as marijuana mogul Helios Dayspring, according to a county source.

On Aug. 6, 2020, Hill committed suicide.

As part of the lawsuit, in 2022, the Chase Trust sought to depose Wright.

In Feb. 2022, Wright’s lawyers asked Superior Court Judge Hernaldo Baltodano to halt their client’s deposition and delay the case.

The attorneys argued the FBI was investigating Wright in connection with wire fraud, money laundering and tax charges and that moving forward with the deposition could violate his rights against self-incrimination. Judge Baltodano denied the motion.

While CalCoastNews investigated and reported on financial issues with the developers, the Tribune repeatedly countered with stories promoting the developers’ projects.

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One of Belsher’s first projects in 2013 was on Grand Street near Cal Poly. I remember his presentation to the City Council and, at that time, John Ashbaugh and Carlyn Christianson thought it was a great project. Belsher didn’t count on the newly elected council member, Dan Rivoire, dissenting on the project along with Carpenter and Marx. (Marx remarked that she’d approved a similar high-density project in the area that promised new housing for families but turned out to be crammed with college students and disruptive to the single-family residential area.)

John Ashbaugh lobbied hard for Belsher during that meeting! Small-town connections in small-town politics. Always, always.

The creditors for the Grand Avenue project included a couple from Bakersfield who invested $1,653,038, Heritage Oaks Bank at $220,500, and Belsher at $347,000.

The property sold for $700,000 at an auction held in the breezeway next to the county building in August 2018.

Ryan technically owes me a fair amount of money; I’d rather avoid him like the plague than pursue it. Guy is an astonishing pos and, lets not forget, physical abuser of women. Good riddance.

“investors have been promised rates of return between 20 to 50 percent, according to an email from Wright to a potential investor”

Hmmm a little investor greed perhaps?

Sumthin for the bulls, sumthin for the bears, nuthin for the hogs … you reap what you sow

Hopefully all the victims of these two will begin to see some justice. The question is; why has this taken so long?

Velie has owned this story since Day 1. Yet another reminder of the importance of CCN. Hope Belsher and Wright enjoy their time in jail. Let’s see how long it takes before Belsher’s wife dumps him.

We have been reading about this infamous dynamic duo for nearly a decade and their partner Barry La Barbera. Funny, pictures at various fundraising events, chamber mixers, player get togethers reflect the dynamic trio together and yet we are surprised a retired judge comes out of retirement to handle the case of a long-time friend – nothing shady about that. During all this time Belcher and Pet-it (Prison nic-name) continue to live the life of rich people on other people’s money. Maybe in a year or two Ryan Petetit / Wright will change his name to Ryan Wrong and Belsher can change his name to John Belcher. There are both full of hot air and shady dealings.

Great reporting Karen especially the detailed timeline. These two swindlers have played the system long enough. Its high time their shit show ends and the victims finally receive justice from these low life fraudsters.

Is it me or does the “retired” Barry LaBarbera only seem to come out of retirement to oversee this guy’s cases. Something fishy here