Exposed by a Post-it-note: The fall of Ryan Petetit

May 18, 2024

Ryan Petetit partying with friends in Hawaii in 2017


Editor’s note: This is the third 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. Read part one: Evolution of an alleged San Luis Obispo County conman. Read part two: Assaults and arrests, SLO County developer’s fall from grace.

Ryan Petetit – described as a man who could convince 99 out of 100 people the sky is yellow – allegedly conned dozens of investors into believing their money was safe with PB Companies and then squandered it on luxury cars, private jets, and foreign travel.

Petetit and his partner attorney John Belsher started out big with more than a dozen projects they valued at over $300 million. Under their PB Companies’ name, they borrowed money from banks, hard money lenders and private parties.

In some cases, the partners promised rates of return between 20% to 50%, according to an email from Petetit to a potential investor.

“The San Luis rezone is going to run us about $400,000-$500,000 we will offer a 20%-50% rate of return or a percentage of the increased value,” Petetit said in a 2014 email. “For example current value is 2M the value of 200 apartments and 70 single family homes will be $15.6M. It will take two years to accomplish this then when we sale [sic] the project or decide to build it out, which we will most likely build it out we return the investment back to the investors plus their returns.”

But Belsher and Petetit failed to finish most of their projects, pay subcontractors or reimburse multiple private investors.

Investors in a 26-home proposed development in Templeton were procured through San Luis Obispo-based Mid-Coast Mortgage with a promise of 10 percent interest, according to owner Vince Crooks.

Doug Dowden, a consultant who conducted the environmental impact report on the Templeton residential project dubbed Toad Creek, asked CalCoastNews in 2015 to look into what he suspected was fraud. PB Companies had not paid him nor the owner of a construction company located in Los Osos for their work on the project.

Toad Creek in 2016

Belsher and Petetit finished three to five homes in the Toad Creek development before renaming the project Oak Knoll Homes. The project was eventually completed, but not by Belsher and Petetit.

Because of PB Companies’ failure to provide payments for work done, the Los Osos-based construction company owner said he faced losing his business and possibly his home. Even though PB Companies had failed to pay him for nearly five months, he had continued to pay his crew.

After hard money lending fraud schemes of the early 2000s landed developer Kelly Gearhart and lenders Jay Miller, Karen Guth and Josh Yaguda in prison – lender Vince Crooks paid subcontractors for the work after it was completed.

Crooks said his company did not write checks to PB Companies. Instead, his lending company paid the subcontractors working on the projects directly in order to ensure the vendors were paid.

“Every subcontractor has been paid,” Crooks said, unaware Belsher and Petetit had misled him.

Instead of paying Dowden for the environmental impact report or the Los Osos contractor for construction, Crooks paid Axis Engineering and Wright Homes and Communities.

In what appeared to be an attempt to funnel money directly to themselves, Belsher and Wright created Axis Engineering in 2012 and Wright Homes and Communities in 2013, the California Secretary of State website shows.

John Belsher in France in 2017

Seeking to better understand PB Companies, CalCoastNews asked volunteer dumpster diver Jeff Specht to go through PB Companies’ trash and retrieve every document, paper, Post-it-note, anything with writing on it. Specht’s efforts provided a treasure trove of documents and information.

Large monthly financial spreadsheets documented what PB Companies had invested in each project, what they claimed the properties were worth, and the actual value of the developments. The spreadsheets provided evidence the developers were deceiving lenders and investors.

In what appeared to be an attempt to secure a loan, someone had cut out the signature of Belsher’s wife Jody Belsher from one document and taped it on another document.

In another odd twist, there were written notes in the trash regarding work for Adam Hill to perform, though the notes did not suggest it was San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill.

The trash also included a crumpled, yellow Post-it-note: “Put San Luis Consulting LLC in Adam Hill’s name.” A search of the California Secretary of State website confirmed Supervisor Hill was working for Belsher and Petetit’s development company. Belsher had transferred San Luis Consulting LLC into Hill’s name.

Along with every elected official in California, Hill was required to submit a Statement of Economic Interest, also known as Form 700, every year to protect against conflicts of interest. In his 2015 filing, Hill reported he received $10,001 to $100,000 in 2014 for what he described as “writing, editing, and coaching,” through San Luis Consulting.

Hill’s Form 700 filing contradicted some of San Luis Consulting’s state filings while also failing to disclose PB Companies was making the payments.

Adam Hill speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a PB Companies project in 2015.

In 2015, Hill responded to questions from reporters about his alleged corrupt involvement with Petetit and Belsher by attacking CalCoastNews and falsely claiming reporters had a grudge and were targeting him.

During this time, Aaron Ochs, a Morro Bay man affiliated with Hill, launched multiple social media sites that appeared tasked with destroying the credibility of CalCoastNews reporters. Since its launch, hundreds of posts on the Cal Coast Fraud Facebook page falsely claimed reporters were diagnosed with mental illness, were felons, had a grudge against Hill and had harassed his family. At times, participants in Cal Coast Fraud discussed physically harming the reporters.

During a 2016 deposition, Ochs said then-Oceano Community Services District Director Matt Guerrero had provided content for the Cal Coast Fraud Facebook page. An attorney and avid supporter of Hill at the time, Guerrero allegedly worked to discredit CalCoastNews and its reporters.

In late 2017, then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Guerrero to a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judgeship.

While Belsher and Petetit lived lives of luxury that created an aura of financial invincibility, some of their projects were in bankruptcy as they battled dozens of tax liens and lawsuits over alleged failures to pay contractors and investors.

Petetit was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts for writing more than $5,000 in bad checks in 2014. His victims included his landlord, Coast BMW Nissan, City of Arroyo Grande and Fatte’s Pizza.

After Petetit agreed to enter the San Luis Obispo County bad check program, the charges were dismissed, according to court records.

Even so, in the years that followed, Petetit and Belsher’s companies continued to write bad checks.

Dowden threatened to take Belsher to court if he did not pay him for several environmental impact reports he wrote. In Feb. 2016, Belsher agreed to pay several of his outstanding bills if Dowden would agree to a reduced amount.

Belsher than paid Dowden through a check from Axis Engineering, a company co-owned by Belsher and Petetit. Nevertheless, the approximately $10,000 check signed by Petetit bounced.

Dowden filed a lawsuit in March 2016. A few weeks later, Belsher mailed Dowden a cashier’s check to cover the amount of the bounced check.

Shortly after Petetit pleaded guilty to the violent assault of a girlfriend, in 2018 he changed his name from Ryan Petetit to Ryan Wright.

FBI agents arrested Ryan Wright on Oct. 30, 2023 on a three-count indictment charging him with conspiracy, falsification of records and obstruction of justice. Wright and Belsher’s business, PB Companies, allegedly paid nearly $100,000 in bribes and gifts to former Supervisor Adam Hill.

A superseding indictment filed on Dec. 20 includes 18 additional charges related to a proposed development in Texas, including wire fraud, bank fraud and access device fraud. Wright’s trial is set for Oct. 29, 2024.

While court filings refer to Belsher as Wright’s co-conspirator, law enforcement agents have not arrested Belsher.


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This is the real tragedy “While court filings refer to Belsher as Wright’s co-conspirator, law enforcement agents have not arrested Belsher.”, Belsher’s not in jail!!!

Now that he’s been convicted in civil court and has to pay $4m to folks he ripped off, maybe the criminal courts can get to work.

Wright promises riches after the “SLO rezone.” Looks like he used the Fresno/Clovis playbook from the 90s when a crooked developer, local councilmembers, a supervisor, and a generation of developers (16 in all) went to jail on bribery and witness tampering charges. The developer’s license plate read “REZONE.”

No surprise that Judge Matt Guerrero is part of this. This criminal in a robe is a corrupt snake who has shamelessly abused his power to destroy families and traumatize innocent children. Guerrero is a disgrace to the judiciary and a menace to society who cares more about protecting his cronies than the anguish he’s unleashed.

Can he be recalled?

Great reporting Karen diving in dumpsters is surely searching for the truth. Throughout this saga one has to wonder why Belsher isn’t sitting in the cell next to Wright.

The real trash in the dumpster is the two of them.

I should have said three. Add in Guerrero.

So this is how it all started. Absolutely remarkable. A dive in a Dumpster, a crumpled Post-it note… enterprise reporting at it very best. The ongoing and developing story of the Petitit-Wright-Belsher activities back then was being published exclusively by CalCoastNews and simultaneously being ignored by DA Dan Dow. Props to the feds: FBI noticed and did the additional investigative work needed to bring charges against Petitit-Wright, and soon Belsher. Which led to FBI probe of Adam Hill. Which led to Adam’s suicide. Award-winning work, Karen. Kudos to CalCoastNews. (Watch the Fibune and that Aaron Ochs fellow try to take credit for all this.)