A former Adelanto city councilman has been found guilty of accepting a $10,000 bribe to help a cannabis business open and hiring someone to burn down his restaurant in return of insurance.
After a six-day trial, Jermaine Wright, 46, was found guilty by a federal jury on Wednesday of one count of bribery of programs receiving federal funds and one count of attempted arson of a building affecting interstate commerce, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Federal prosecutors launched their corruption probe in Adelanto in early 2017 after receiving reports of officials taking bribes.
Wright was acting mayor when he was approached by an informant who introduced him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a potential cannabis business owner, federal prosecutors say.
The agent asked Wright for an upvote to expand the city’s cannabis business area so his business could operate elsewhere. The undercover officer also requested protection from code enforcement related to his marijuana transportation business.
Wright told the informant that the cannabis business would need an “exemption” to operate outside the designated area, according to prosecutors.
“So if he wants his bye, I want my ten,” Wright told the insider.
The informant later confirmed that the “ten” referred to 10% of the company’s profits.
During a meeting with Wright and the informant in October 2017, the undercover officer placed two stacks of $50 bills totaling $10,000 on a table, and Wright placed the money in his pocket, according to court documents.
Around the same time, Wright asked the same informant to introduce him to someone who could help burn down his restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, federal prosecutors said.
He asked to be put in touch with “the electrician” because he wanted the fire to look like an electric fire. He expected to collect $300,000 from his insurance and paid another undercover officer $1,500 for the job, prosecutors say.
Wright was later confronted by officers and confessed to hiring someone to burn down his business. The next day, according to prosecutors, Wright enlisted the help of the informant to get the undercover agent to “go away” and ensure that no one would testify against him.
Wright then asked the informant to help beat him outside his restaurant so he could claim he was suffering from memory loss, believing he would be able to beat the charges against him if he claimed he did not remember any details, according to the affidavit.
In November 2017, Wright reported being assaulted, and details of the alleged attack matched what the informant had reported to federal agents.
Wright is expected to be sentenced in September. He faces up to 30 years in federal prison.