A former councilman from the city of Adelanto has been convicted of taking a $10,000 bribe to help a cannabis business open and hiring someone to burn down his restaurant for an insurance payout.
After a six-day trial, Jermaine Wright, 46, was found guilty Wednesday by a federal jury 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 started their corruption probe into Adelanto in early 2017 after receiving reports of officials taking bribes.
Wright was acting mayor pro tem when he was approached by an informant who introduced him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a potential cannabis business owner, according to federal prosecutors.
The agent asked Wright for a favorable vote in expanding the city’s cannabis business zone so that his business could operate elsewhere. The undercover agent also asked for protection from code enforcement related to his marijuana transportation business.
Wright told the informant the cannabis business would need an “exemption” to operate outside the designated zone, according to prosecutors.
“So if he wants wants his exemption, I want my ten,” Wright told the informant.
The informant later confirmed that the “ten” referred to 10% of the business’ profit.
During a meeting with Wright and the informant in October 2017, the undercover agent placed two stacks of $50 bills that totaled $10,000 on a table, and Wright placed 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 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 electrical fire. He expected to collect $300,000 from his insurance 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 for the informant’s help to make the undercover agent “go away” and ensure nobody would testify against him.
Wright then asked the informant to help beat him up outside his restaurant so he could claim that he suffered memory loss, believing that he would be able to beat the charges against him if he claimed he could not remember any details, according to the affidavit.
In November 2017, Wright reported he was assaulted, and the details of the alleged attack matched what the informant reported to federal agents.
Wright is scheduled to be sentenced in September. He faces up to 30 years in federal prison.