A former California mayor has been arrested by federal agents and charged with two counts of bribery and seven counts of fraud. The 64-year-old man was taken into custody on Aug. 13. He appeared at an arraignment hearing in a Riverside County federal court later in the day and was released after posting a bond in the amount of $30,000. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The man faces up to 160 years in a federal prison if he is convicted on all counts.
Bribes, gifts and kickbacks
According to court documents, the man accepted bribes, gifts and kickbacks worth more than $57,000 when he served as the mayor of Adelanto between 2014 and 2018. An indictment issued on Aug. 11 lists three co-schemers identified as Person A, Person B and Person C. Two of these individuals are said to have business interests in the San Bernadino County city, and the third is allegedly an attorney who specializes in tort litigation.
Marijuana licenses and permits
U.S. attorneys claim that the bribery scheme revolved around the acquisition of permits and licenses to cultivate and sell medical marijuana. During a November 2016 council meeting, the former mayor allegedly argued to revise the boundaries of a medical marijuana “overlay zone” to ensure that it would include a commercial building owned by Person A. When he served on the city’s Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee, the former mayor allegedly accepted cash, gifts and campaign contributions to ensure that his co-schemers permit applications would be approved. The former mayor has pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Plea agreement likely
The defendants in federal cases that involve white-collar crimes and several co-schemers almost always choose to enter into plea agreements rather than take their chances in court. This is because the penalties for these offenses are severe and the evidence federal prosecutors bring to the table is usually compelling. While U.S. attorneys usually have a strong position in plea negotiations, they are often willing to make significant charging and sentencing concessions to resolve complex cases quickly.