Natural Healing Center founder Helios Dayspring has pleaded guilty to bribery and filing a false income tax return.
The cannabis business owner appeared in federal court by video on Friday, Oct. 22.
He was initially charged in federal court in July after reportedly admitting to bribing late San Luis Obispo County District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, attempting to bribe former Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals, and failing to report millions of dollars in income to the IRS.
Dayspring is scheduled to be sentenced on February 11, 2022.
He faces a maximum sentence of 13 years in prison, three years probation, and a $500,000 fine. Plus, he could be ordered to pay nearly $3.5 million in restitution to the IRS.
According to court documents, between 2016 and 2019, Dayspring paid Hill $29,000 in cash, gave him cannabis products, and paid for multiple meals with the understanding that Hill would vote and advocate for cannabis legislation beneficial to Dayspring's cannabis farms.
San Luis Obispo County officials said a review of cannabis legislation and land use permits after the charges against Dayspring were announced found two questionable decisions that could be linked to the bribery of Hill.
Officials say one of those was a vote that ultimately benefited Dayspring by extending a temporary hold on enforcement of cannabis regulations for certain growers.
Court documents show that Dayspring also offered Shoals $100,000 in exchange for securing two cannabis dispensary permits in the City of Grover Beach. Shoals reportedly did not respond to the attempted bribe.
The Natural Healing Center was ultimately awarded a single dispensary permit to open a storefront in Grover Beach. It was the first NHC dispensary to open in San Luis Obispo County. A second location opened in Morro Bay in April.
A third NHC location was planned in the city of San Luis Obispo, but in early October, city officials announced that the business' commercial cannabis operator permit was being terminated and it would no longer be allowed to open. Officials said a review of the Natural Healing Center's application found that Dayspring submitted false or misleading information about his criminal misconduct, stating that he never spent money for illegal purposes, falsified any documents, or was involved in tax fraud or evasion.
Before a San Luis Obispo City Council meeting on October 19, NHC employees held a rally, encouraging city leaders to reverse the decision and allow the cannabis dispensary to open its planned storefront on Broad Street. However, city officials said the decision would remain in place, although the business has the opportunity to seek a judicial review within 90 days.
The Natural Healing Center, with Val Garcia now as CEO, also operates a shop in Lemoore and plans to open another in Turlock.