asset forfeiture

California mayor pro tem accused of taking $10,000 marijuana zoning bribe, hiring man to burn down his restaurant

ADELANTO, Calif. — A Southern California city councilman was arrested on federal charges alleging that he took a $10,000 cash bribe involving a marijuana business proposal and also attempted to have his restaurant burned down to collect insurance money, authorities said.

The Victorville Daily Press reported the arrest of 41-year-old Adelanto Councilman Jermaine Wright late Tuesday. A call to his office was answered Wednesday by a recording that said voicemail was not available.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Wright was expected to make his first appearance Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Riverside to answer to charges of bribery and attempted arson of a building.

The case resulted from an undercover FBI investigation into possible corruption in Adelanto, a city of 32,000 in the Victor Valley area of the Mojave Desert northeast of Los Angeles. An informant was also involved.

The criminal complaint alleges that Wright solicited and accepted the bribe from an undercover FBI agent who said he wanted the councilman’s help in dealing with city rezoning and code enforcement issues related to a supposed marijuana business.

Ultimately, $10,000 was paid in a meeting in which Wright discussed how the undercover agent could open a marijuana transportation business, according to prosecutors.

“During a meeting on October 6, (the undercover agent) then placed $10,000 dollars on a box being used as a table, made up of two stacks of $50 bills, and told Wright, ‘that’s for you, or your non-profit, whatever,'” according to a case affidavit. “Wright responded, ‘my non-profit, yes sir, thank you sir.’ Wright eventually placed the $10,000 in his pocket.”

The second alleged scheme involved a payment of $1,500 to another undercover FBI agent to burn down his restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, in order to collect $300,000 in insurance. Wright allegedly wanted the fire to appear to be an electrical accident.