A former Congressional staff member was arrested this week for allegedly extorting $5,000 from a Compton marijuana dispensary. Authorities allege that 44-year-old Michael Kimbrew, a former field representative for former California Rep. Janice Hahn, approached the owners of an unnamed dispensary and promised to “make things happen” for them in exchange for cash.
Authorities said that Kimbrew contacted the dispensary owners in March 2015, and claimed he was working with the FBI to ensure that California dispensaries were filing the appropriate permits. The dispensary had already received a cease-and-desist letter from Compton officials, a fact that Kimbrew had discovered, and used to his advantage in the extortion case.
The former staffer reportedly told the business owners that if they reached “an agreement” with him, he could help them gain compliance, but if they did not, they would be shut down. Kimbrew met with the shop owners several times at Compton City Hall to discuss this agreement. However, also present at the meetings, was an undercover FBI agent posing as one of the business owners.
In May 2015, court documents report that Kimbrew and the undercover agent met at a restaurant. At this meeting, the agent passed Kimbrew $5,000 in cash hidden in a menu, which the former staffer then allegedly put in his pocket. FBI agents arrested Kimbrew this Wednesday, and charged him with one count each of attempted extortion and receiving a bribe.
“I’ve always trusted my employees to have the same sense of public service that I do,” said Hahn, who is currently a Los Angeles County supervisor. “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."
Kimbrew pleaded not guilty, and was released on a $15,000 bond. If convicted, he could face up to 18 years in federal prison.