A City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem in the small Southern California town of Adelanto has been arrested as the focal point of an FBI sting dealing directly with the medical marijuana industry, the Victorville Daily Press reports. According to the federal criminal complaint, Jermaine Wright, a local politician and proprietor of Adelanto’s Fat Boyz Grill restaurant, accepted $10,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent for a series of political actions made to assist a fictional medical marijuana company in subverting local zoning codes.
The political corruption case all started earlier this year, when on June 15th, an FBI informant introduced Wright to an undercover agent pretending to be a medical marijuana businessman looking to buy land in Adelanto. In a plan proposed by the agent, the fed said that he wanted to buy a plot of land outside of the city’s allowed marijuana cultivation zone, with the eventual goal being that, for the right price, Wright would influence the City Council to rezone the property to permit a cannabis grow. After negotiating a personal cut of $20,000 for his zoning vote, Wright agreed to the scheme.
And while he may not be the most morally scrupulous politician, Wright is apparently a man of his word, carrying out two successful City Council votes before he ever even received payment, and also agreeing to hasten the city regulations process for the fake grow-op in exchange for $15,000.
After delivering on his seedy agreements in both instances, the agents finally decided to flash Wright a little cash last month, leading to his eventual arrest. In exchange for helping the agent get a city zoning exemption for a hypothetical medical marijuana distribution company, the Mayor Pro Tem accepted a cash payment of $10,000, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that Wright told an FBI informant, “if he wants his exemption, I want my ten.”
Once he got a taste of the cash crime brings, Wright went full Goodfellas, concocting a new plan to burn down his restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, to collect the insurance payout. Not wanting light the match himself, Wright solicited his newfound criminal mastermind friends to do the deed, all of whom, of course, were either FBI informants or full-fledged agents.
When FBI agents finally made their presence known to Wright on October 17th, the politician and restaurateur fessed up to the arson plot, but dug his legal hole even deeper by immediately calling his “business partner” — a federal informant — with multiple half-baked plans to get the feds off his tail, including sending a dead rat addressed to Wright and a self-induced beating, suggesting criminal higher-ups might already be after him.
Now, Wright has been arrested on federal bribery and attempted arson charges, and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Because some medical marijuana laws, including California’s current Prop. 215 provisions, have little central oversight from the state level, local politicians often have more influence in the success or failure of canna-businesses than they should, giving federal agents an almost perfect angle to sniff out misconduct in government.
Late last year in Garden City, Michigan, a similar investigation occurred after a City Council member went to the FBI with $15,000 in cash that they said came from a local restaurant owner who hoped to influence three City Council members to fast-track a proposed medical marijuana business.
In a report from the Tallahassee Democrat from earlier this year, sources claimed that one particular undercover FBI agent, going by the name Mike Sweets, had been attempting to bribe Florida politicians for favor in the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, and that he was the same agent linked to the medical marijuana licensing portion of a high profile corruption case in San Francisco in 2016, resulting in former State Senator Leland Yee being sentenced to five years of federal prison time.
Apparently, Sweets used the same loud-talking, brash persona in both California and Florida, posing as a cannabis investor looking to do whatever it takes to get in on the American green rush, including under the table payouts.
As for Jermaine Wright, the Adelanto politician is currently in federal custody, where he had his first appearance in court yesterday. As of press time, it appears that Wright has not yet filed a plea for the federal charges.