Biz Buzz: Plea bargain could get Santa Maria hard-money lender Mike Wilson at least 10 years

A plea bargain is expected today in the criminal mortgage fraud case of Santa Maria hard-money lender Mike L. Wilson, according to Jerry Lulejian, the Santa Barbara County deputy district attorney prosecuting the case.

Wilson, who operated the now-closed Pacific Coast Mortgage, was arrested July 10 on suspicion of grand theft, forgery of real estate deeds, misrepresentations in the sale of securities and elder abuse by embezzlement. Some of his alleged victims live in San Luis Obispo County.

Wilson was facing a maximum sentence of 50 years or more.

In his deal with the state, Wilson, 55, will plead guilty to one count of grand theft for each of the approximately 45 victims named in the case, including his mother and father and many friends.

He has also been given an incentive to repay his investors for their losses. If he can repay investors $1 million to $2 million of what they’ve collectively lost, the district attorney will reduce Wilson’s sentence by five or 10 years, depending on how much he collects. At a minimum, Wilson will serve 10 years and four months, Lulejian added.

Wilson also has to liquidate his personal assets and make a concerted effort to correct the real estate deeds of trust that he failed to record properly, in order to repay investors for their losses, the deputy district attorney said.

Wilson’s arrest last July followed the filing of at least seven lawsuits against him in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. Those suits, which will proceed, mirror the criminal complaints alleging losses of more than $5 million that were supposed to go toward commercial and residential investments in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties.

Wilson first made headlines at the end of February, when he had to be rescued by the Coast Guard after falling from his boat into the deep chilly waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Wilson said a wave had knocked him overboard.

One of the investors suing Wilson, Sandee Ogilvie, said Wednesday that she thinks even a 20-year sentence for Wilson is too light, given the damage he has done to those who entrusted him with their money, some of whom were elderly and gave Wilson all of their savings. But, given what she believes would be a “huge expense” in taking the Wilson case to trial, Ogilvie said, “I think this is an acceptable resolution.”

— Melanie Cleveland

A.G. hospital marks milestone

Friday marks the five-year anniversary of Arroyo Grande Community Hospital’s acquisition by Catholic Healthcare West. An open house celebration will be held at 11 a.m., when the hospital will unveil its new healing garden, paid for by funds raised by hospital employees.

Since 2004, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital has been in a partnership with an outpatient center, the Coastal Surgical Institute in Pismo Beach. The hospital has also installed new beds throughout the facility, opened a third operating room, added a chapel, and upgraded the radiology department. The Arroyo Grande Community Hospital Foundation raised funds to open the Coastal Cancer Care and Diagnostic Center in Pismo Beach in June 2008.

The 65-bed hospital, which opened in 1961, currently employs more than 400 people. Catholic Healthcare West is comprised of 40 hospitals and two medical practice groups in the Western United States.

— Julia Hickey

Jocko’s steakhouse gets top beef honor

At noon on Tuesday, the California Beef Council will present the California Beef Backer Award to Jocko’s Steakhouse in Nipomo. The award was established in 2000 and recognizes restaurants that promote beef and the beef industry through innovative menus, promotions and high-quality beef entrées.

To compete, a restaurant has to be nominated by a California rancher. Winning restaurants receive monetary awards for future beef purchases. Previous award recipients include The Gold Rush Steak House at Madonna Inn and the F. McLintocks restaurant chain.

The roots of Jocko’s reach back to 1886, when Emery Knotts opened a saloon on Tefft Street in Nipomo.

Knotts’ son, Ralph “Jocko” Knotts, operated a similar business called Jocko’s Cage there in 1925.

The current business was opened in 1962 by Jocko’s sons, Fred and George Knotts.

The restaurant is now operated by the late Fred’s wife, Sandy, and son Mike.

— Julia Hickey