A former councilman from the city of Adelanto has been convicted of taking a $10,000 bribe to help open a cannabis store and hiring someone to burn down his restaurant for an insurance payout.
After a six-day trial, 46-year-old Jermaine Wright was found guilty Wednesday by a federal jury on charges of bribing programs that receive federal funds and a charge of attempting to set fire to a building that interferes with interstate commerce, according to the US – District Attorney for the Central District of California.
Federal prosecutors launched their corruption investigation into Adelanto in early 2017 after receiving reports of officials accepting bribes.
Wright was the deputy mayor when he was approached by a whistleblower who federal prosecutors say introduced him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a potential cannabis business owner.
The agent asked Wright for a vote in favor of expanding the city’s cannabis business zone so his business could operate elsewhere. The undercover agent also asked for protection from code enforcement related to his marijuana shipping business.
Wright told the whistleblower that prosecutors said the cannabis business would need an “exemption” to operate outside of the designated zone.
“So if he wants his time off, I want my ten,” Wright told the whistleblower.
The informant later confirmed that the “ten” referred to 10% of the company’s profits.
During an October 2017 meeting with Wright and the whistleblower, the undercover agent placed two stacks of $50 bills totaling $10,000 on a table, and Wright slipped the money into his pocket, according to court documents.
Around the same time, Wright asked the same informant to introduce him to a person who could help burn down his Fat Boyz Grill restaurant, federal prosecutors said.
He asked to be associated with the “electrician” because he wanted the fire to look like an electrical fire. He expected to collect $300,000 from his insurance company and paid another undercover agent $1,500 for the job, according to prosecutors.
Wright was later confronted by agents and confessed to hiring someone to burn down his business. The next day, prosecutors said, Wright asked the whistleblower for help in making the undercover agent “disappear” and making sure no one would testify against him.
Wright then asked the whistleblower to help him beat him up outside his restaurant so he could claim he suffered amnesia, believing he could beat the charges against him if he claimed he could, according to affidavit explanation do not remember details.
In November 2017, Wright reported that he was attacked, and the details of the alleged attack matched what the whistleblower reported to federal agents.
Wright is due to be sentenced in September. He faces up to 30 years in federal prison.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-23/former-adelanto-councilman-found-guilty-of-taking-bribe Former Adelanto councilman found guilty of taking bribe