Evolution of an alleged San Luis Obispo County conman

May 14, 2024

Ryan Wright, also know as Ryan Petetit

By KAREN VELIE

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series about the evolution of notorious developer Ryan Wright, also known as Ryan Petetit, and the legal challenges he is currently facing.

Suave jet-setting elite, financial genius, prolific San Luis Obispo County developer, notorious conman, serial abuser, but who is Ryan Wright? Or should he be called him Ryan Petetit.

Currently sitting in a federal jail awaiting trial on 21 charges, Wright is accused of bribing a county supervisor, conspiracy, fraud and much more. Even so, there are victims of his schemes who remain loyal supporters, some willing to help bail him out of jail while others worry for their safety if he is released.

Ryan was born to a teenage mother in 1986. His father, the owner of a local pub, wanted nothing to do with the illegitimate Ryan Wright. A few years later, Ryan’s mother Colleen Wright married Robert Petetit and Ryan Wright became Ryan Petetit.

A 15-year veteran of the Pismo Beach force, in 2003, Robert Petetit lost his job after he was caught stealing $1,562 from a police evidence locker. Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera sentenced the former officer to 30 days in jail.

Along with Robert Petetit’s job, peace in the home allegedly became a thing of the past. Former friends and lovers say Ryan Petetit described a childhood rife with abuse.

After graduating from Arroyo Grande High School, Ryan Petetit joined the Pismo Beach Athletic Club and began making contacts with businessmen and developers. As a young man, Petetit sold Amway products until he began working his first real estate scam, according to Petetit’s former friend Jonathan Westbay.

In 2008 and 2009, banks were foreclosing right and left on residential properties. Petetit knew multiple people who were behind on their mortgage payments and threatened with foreclosure. Along with a partner, he created a business which allegedly negotiated deals with banks in order to help homeowners lower their debt and possibly save their homes.

In order for Petetit to negotiate the deals, he required the homeowners to move out and give him control of their property. However, instead of helping desperate homeowners, Ryan rented the properties out to people who had no idea that in several months a sheriff deputy would evict them from the residences, Westbay said.

It was during this time that Ryan asked a fellow gym attendee, a developer, if he could tag along to an appointment with the developer’s attorney John Belsher, Westbay said. The then 59-year-old Belsher and 25-year-old Petetit quickly formed a partnership with plans to develop multiple projects throughout the Central Coast.

Belsher and Petetit began securing money from banks, hard money lenders and investors for multiple construction projects. While subcontractors claimed they were not getting paid and Petetit was bouncing personal checks, Belsher and Petetit lived lives of luxury.

John Belsher and Ryan Petetit

The developers leased a private jet and purchased box seats at Giants’ games, as Petetit courted wealthy businessmen to invest in his and Belsher’s PB Companies’ projects.

Belsher and Petetit easily obtained building permits, as well as what appeared 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.

For example, in 2011, Petetit purchased a home at 1179 San Carlos Drive in San Luis Obispo with funds from multiple sources. Several investors said the developers claimed they were remodeling the home and had plans to sell it in about six months.

However, Rush Sheppel, an investor in the San Carlos Drive property, said the developers told him their plans were to construct a home for Petetit to occupy. After a new home would be constructed on the lot, Petetit would get a mortgage to pay back the investors, Sheppel said.

In mid-2011, Petetit began applying for permits for an extensive remodel of the San Carlos drive home under a contractor’s license number belonging to HJ Construction. After city inspectors became aware of multiple code violations, they contacted HJ Construction President Dominic Judge, who said he had never worked on, or even bid to work on, the project.

After issuing multiple citations for violating water drainage requirements, in July 2012, the city suspended Petetit’s building permits. In Sept. 2013, Petetit paid his outstanding fees and fines, and his permit was reinstated.

In Jan. 2014, Petetit demolished the home. Following the demolition, the city slapped him with several notices of violation and an administrative citation, according to superior court records.

Investors filed three foreclosures on the property for a total of approximately $200,000, according to property records.

On Oct. 14, 2014, the city of San Luis Obispo filed a claim for injunctive relief due of Petetit’s repeated code violations and because the property had become a public nuisance, according to court documents. The city’s claim referred to 17 notices of violation, two permit suspensions and eight field corrections.

On Nov. 18, 2014, the city entered into an agreement with Petetit in which the city agreed to lower his fines from $14,700 to $1,500, and Petetit agreed to diligently pursue construction of the residence, according to the contract.

While subcontractors and investors attempted to get paid, Petetit continued living the high-life and courting investors.

Read part-two, “Assaults and arrests, SLO County developer’s fall from grace,” on Wednesday.

 


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We have all heard, “if you don’t like it, then sue me”. Here is my opinion on that statement, there can only be a lawsuit if the violation is so egregious and most importantly a well-funded deep pocket violator or the plaintiff is willing to put up a large deposit. In both cases somebody everyone is innocent until time is exhausted or the funds are depleted. Especially in this county, the courts need to clear conflicts or secure a disclosure that waves that concern, but still a card game. Who would have thought that the Kelly Gearhart scam could be repeated multiple time in this small county? Where is the law, on the payroll? My answer is yes, no money no trial and that goes for everyone in the civil law arena. Eventually it becomes a criminal case and up goes the ante. Thievery runs ramped because jurisdictional agencies are not doing their job and the courts prefer equities instead of justice. So there you have it, we support thievery as social justice.


Well gee, I wonder how and why he got so much slack from the authorities. Outrageous.


Glad I’m not a criminal conman. Seems like a helluva lot of work goes into it.

I got worn out just reading this 1st installment!

What a POS dirtbag this guy, (and Belsher) are.


If I was a memeber of the elite in SLO county I too wouldn’t be worried about the local arm of the law. DA Dow has a reputation of going easy on those in the protected circle. No surprise Ryan’s current problems are federal, local law let him carry on as usual.


This guy sounds like a real jerk.


The way Westbay describes Petitit it sounds like a Bill Clinton clone. Very slick and does not hesitate to use women.


Distracting from the Orange Predator…


Ryan is the first of a significant number of corrupt individuals in this county now worrying about the long arm of the law. His activities were made possible because others helped, or ignored, the criminality. Look for an amazing roundup soon of some well-known folks. And looking forward to the next two parts of this series! Great work, Karen. Again.