By KAREN VELIE
A former investor and partner of San Luis Obispo based developers John Belsher and Ryan Wright recently filed a lawsuit against the pair accusing them of swindling him out of $700,000 through a double escrow scheme.
The lawsuit, filed by Tayor Judkins on April 24, accuses Belsher and Wright of fraud, misrepresentation, breach of judiciary duty and breach of a promissory note. Belsher, Wright (previously known as Ryan Petetit) and their PB Companies drew in multiple commercial lenders and private parties to invest in their projects, a handful of whom have sued them for alleged financial misdeeds.
In 2015, Belsher, Wright and Judkins forged a partnership, Marsh-Higuera Mixed Use LLC, which purchased buildings at 545 Higuera Street and 486 Marsh Street. While in escrow to purchase the two properties from Coast National Bank, Belsher and Wright solicited Judkins to invest $1 million and become a partner in a limited liability company allegedly in escrow to purchase the property from the bank for $4 million.
However, Belsher and Wright had created two companies: Marsh Higuera LLC and Higuera/Coast LLC. In both writing and orally, Belsher and Wright misrepresented “that Marsh Higuera LLC was purchasing the property directly from Coast National Bank,” according to the lawsuit.
On July 31, 2015, Higuera/Coast LLC purchased the properties from Coast National Bank for $3.3 million and concurrently sold the properties to Marsh Higuera LLC for $4 million.
“This concurrent ‘double escrow’ allowed Higuera/Coast LLC to use Plaintiffs’ funds to purchase the property and, at the same time allowed Defendants to bank the $700,000 difference between the property’s actual purchase price and the price paid by Plaintiffs,” according to the lawsuit. “Belsher, self-identifying as Marsh Higuera LLC’s attorney and trusted fiduciary, represented Marsh Higuera LLC’s legal interests in the transaction. Defendants knew their representations were false, intentionally deceived plaintiffs and actively concealed the true facts from the plaintiffs.”
In addition, Judkins accuses Belsher and Wright of fraudulently leasing out the building at 545 Higuera Street and then collecting more than $250,000 in rent.
Without Judkins’ knowledge, Belsher filed a statement of information with the Secretary of State listing PB Companies as Marsh-Higuera’s manager, even though PB Companies is not a manager or an owner of Marsh-Higuera.
On Sept. 30, 2015, Wright, who had no ownership in Marsh-Higuera, leased the building at 545 Higuera Street to Mosaic Business Services for $7,875 a month. Payments were sent to PB Companies on Higuera Street, according to court records.
Judkins is seeking restitution with interest and punitive damages.
Despite having multiple bankruptcies, tax liens and lawsuits accusing the pair of fraud, for years Wright and Belsher appeared to be enjoying the high life. They regularly rented private jets, traveled overseas and attended national sports events, while unable to pay investors.