A former field representative for Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn during her days in Congress was arrested Wednesday on federal bribery and extortion charges that allege he took $5,000 in a shakedown at a Compton marijuana store.
Michael Kimbrew, 44, of Carson pleaded not guilty during an appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and was freed on $15,000 bond, prosecutors said. He could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted.
A two-count federal grand jury indictment handed down July 21 alleges Kimbrew approached an employee at the unidentified marijuana store in March 2015, told him the store was violating the law and warned it would be shut down unless the owners reached an agreement with him.
According to the indictment, Kimbrew met the shop’s owners in an office inside Compton City Hall. He claimed he was working with state and federal agencies, including the FBI, to make sure medical marijuana dispensaries were filing appropriate permits.
Could ‘make things happen’
Kimbrew, the indictment alleges, claimed he could “make things happen” and that he would help them navigate the city’s permit process for $5,000.
On May 7, 2015, Kimbrew met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a business partner of the shop’s owners. Again, they met inside Compton City Hall, where Kimbrew said he worked for the federal government and oversaw all activities in the city, the indictment said.
According to the indictment, Kimbrew told the agent that, for $5,000, he would take action to prevent the shutdown of the store, not send in local or federal authorities to close it down, help obtain a permit to allow the shop to stay open, and persuade other officials not to close the store.
He also allegedly said he would not tell Hahn about the store, “eliminating the possibility that the Congress member would inform the FBI about the (marijuana shop’s) illegal activities.”
Cash passed in restaurant menu
Nearly two weeks later, Kimbrew and the undercover agent met in a Compton restaurant. The agent hid $5,000 in a menu and handed it to Kimbrew, who took the cash and placed it in his pocket, according to the indictment.
A federal grand jury indicted Kimbrew on one count of attempted extortion and one count of receiving a bribe.
Although Hahn’s name is not used in the indictment, Kimbrew worked for her at the time. Authorities said she did not know anything about Kimbrew’s alleged scheme.
In a statement Wednesday, Hahn said: “I’ve always trusted my employees to have the same sense of public service that I do. If these charges are true, Mr. Kimbrew abused his power as a representative of my office and violated both my trust and the trust of the public.”
Hahn represented the South Bay and Harbor Area in Washington from 2011 until January, when she took her seat on the Board of Supervisors.
Kimbrew’s resume on LinkedIn indicates he worked for Hahn from December 2014 until February 2017. He lists his current employment as field director for Kimbrew Consulting and says he is a filmmaker.
Hahn’s spokeswoman Liz Odendahl said Kimbrew’s resume was incorrect. He worked for Hahn for about a year and was fired in 2016, she said.
Father’s legal troubles
Kimbrew’s father is Basil Kimbrew, a once-feared Carson political consultant known for his attack mailers, some of which accused opponents of having illegitimate children or committing murder. The elder Kimbrew also served on the Compton school board until he was forced out in 2002 for lying about his residency.
In 2004, prosecutors charged Basil Kimbrew with misappropriating public funds for using a school district credit card to pay for a $2,000 party at a Burbank hotel. A judge placed him on five years probation and ordered him not to participate in political campaigns.
In 2007, Basil Kimbrew was sentenced to two years in state prison after he admitted to consulting on various campaigns in violation of his probation.
Basil Kimbrew sent out an email Wednesday evening from the California Friends of the African-American Caucus to acknowledge his son’s legal problem. He identified himself as a chef.
“This is sad for me to report,” he wrote. “My son 44-year-old Michael Kimbrew has been arrested for bribery and extortion.”