A cannabis bribe and arson: Former Adelanto councilman sentenced to federal prison

A former Adelanto councilman found guilty of taking a $10,000 bribe to help open a cannabis business and hiring someone to burn down his restaurant for an insurance payout was arrested sentenced to five years in prison.

Jermaine Wright, a 46-year-old Riverside resident, was sentenced Monday by US District Judge Jesus G. Bernal, the US Attorney for the Central District of California said.

Wright was found guilty June 22 after a six-day trial on charges of bribery and attempted arson, prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, investigators began investigating possible corruption in the city of San Bernardino County in early 2017.

In June of that year, a confidential informant introduced Wright to an undercover FBI agent going by the name “Steve” at Wright’s Fat Boyz Grill restaurant in Adelanto, according to a Sept. 19 prosecutor’s prejudice report.

“During that meeting, Steve told the defendant, among other things, that Steve was interested in moving his marijuana cultivation business to Adelanto,” the report reads. “Steve also asked about the best way to obtain permits, licenses and other permits needed to operate and told the defendant that he was interested in selling a commercial property outside of the approved marijuana growing zone at a reduced rate Price to buy and then try Have the City Council rededicate the land.”

Wright, who was Deputy Mayor of Adelanto at the time, soon gave his price to help arrange the deal, telling the undercover agent he would help clear the way for his $20,000 cannabis operation.

According to the prejudice report, the talks between the men lasted several weeks.

Wright was recorded in August telling the confidential whistleblower he was in touch with a marijuana company that would pay them $20,000 “to initiate a vote to select this company as one of four companies that will produce a marijuana -Obtained issuance approval [city],” according to the report.

The city council told the whistleblower that the money must go to a non-profit organization set up to cover up its operation, and that he would put the whistleblower on the non-profit organization’s board of directors so they could receive the money as well it in the report.

Wright eventually agreed to take a $10,000 bribe and told the whistleblower that he expected “a stack” or $2,000 in the future if he had to intervene to prevent the code from being enforced at the company , according to the report.

That month Wright also hatched his arson plan. The informant put the councilman in touch with another undercover agent, who the report says is posing as an electrician.

The city council met with the agent in early October and presented his plan.

Wright said he wanted the damage at his restaurant to be “total,” the report said. He told the undercover agent that the building’s landlord would be shutting off the water and rendering the sprinkler system unusable over the coming weekend, the report said.

“The defendant said his insurance policy provided coverage for $300,000,” the report reads. “[The undercover agent] said the cost of the arson would be up to $1,500. The defendant explained that the fire needed to burn quickly because the fire department was just down the street from his restaurant and firefighters were likely to arrive within five minutes of the fire starting. The defendant added that he could leave a gas line open and turn off the alarms, making it appear the ‘staff’ made a mistake.”

The two met three days later, and Wright paid the undercover agent $1,500 after the agent told the council member he needed more time to prepare for the job, prosecutors said.

In mid-October, the FBI executed a search warrant at the Fat Boyz Grill and questioned Wright, who confessed to hiring the undercover agent to burn down the restaurant, prosecutors said. The following day, the informant told the FBI that Wright had been contacted about the search and asked for help in getting the undercover agent “disappear.”

David Kaloyanides, Wright’s attorney, told the Times that he and his client were pleased the judge granted their request for a five-year sentence, the minimum sentence allowed by law.

“We are also pleased that he declined [U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services’] Application for a fine,” Kaloyanides said.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-03/bribes-cannabis-and-arson-former-adelanto-councilman-sentenced-to-federal-prison A cannabis bribe and arson: Former Adelanto councilman sentenced to federal prison

Alley Einstein

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