The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced bribery and tax evasion charges against Natural Healing Center co-founder and owner Helios Dayspring just days after a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge denied the cannabis company’s petition against the county for the score NHC received on its application to open an Orcutt dispensary.
NHC filed the petition in March after the company’s application didn’t score high enough to make the final list of potential storefronts in Orcutt eligible to continue the application process. In its petition, NHC asked the court to re-score its application and prohibit the county from taking any further action on Orcutt’s dispensary application process, alleging that the county didn’t follow its own cannabis application rules and procedures and ignored certain information that NHC submitted.
The court granted the stay, pending a hearing and ruling on the matter, and denied the petition on July 23.
“NHC has not shown that the county failed to follow the procedures in the county code, that county ignored information submitted with its application, or that the scoring of its business operations proposal by the county was arbitrary, capricious, or entirely lacking in evidentiary support,” according to court documents.
NHC declined a request for comment.
As a result of the ruling, the county released its preliminary ranked list for retail cannabis locations in Orcutt on July 29. The county didn’t respond to the Sun’s request for an interview prior to press time, but the county’s cannabis website state’s that only the No. 1 ranked applicant is invited to start the land use and business application process—East Clark SB, doing business as Cookies.
On July 28, federal prosecutors charged Dayspring with bribery for paying the now deceased SLO County 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill $32,000 in exchange for his influence on votes affecting his cannabis business interests, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Dayspring signed a plea deal with the office agreeing to plead guilty to charges of bribery in SLO County and tax evasion in SLO and Santa Barbara counties.
NHC has existing dispensaries in Grover Beach, Morro Bay, and Lemoore and is approved to open one in San Luis Obispo and Turlock. The company also has cannabis farms in both SLO and Santa Barbara counties as well as the Central Valley.
As part of the agreement, Dayspring agreed to pay $3.4 million in restitution to the IRS and cooperate in the government’s continuing investigation. Court documents state that Dayspring underreported his taxable income by approximately $9 million from 2014 to 2018.
A lawsuit filed against Dayspring in August 2020 alleges that Dayspring used company funds to pay for his personal legal expenses related to FBI and IRS investigations, according to previous Sun reporting. The suit filed by William Szymczak alleged that Dayspring “grossly mismanaged” the $15 million he invested in Dayspring’s companies in 2018, and asserted that Dayspring committed fraud and breach of contract and fiduciary duty, among other claims.
A settlement hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 12 in SLO County Superior Court.
NHC announced via Facebook on July 27 that Dayspring’s girlfriend, Valnette Garcia, is the the company’s new CEO. She ran the company’s cannabis delivery service for years.