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Former Adelanto councilman guilty of bribing undercover FBI agents, paying to burn his own restaurant down

CBS News Los Angeles: The Rundown (June 27 AM Edition)
CBS News Los Angeles: The Rundown (June 27 AM Edition) 01:44

The former mayor pro tem of Adelanto faces several years in federal prison after being found guilty of attempted arson and bribery.

Jermaine Wright, 46, of Riverside was found guilty last Wednesday of one count each of bribery of programs receiving federal funds and attempted arson of a building affecting interstate commerce, according to the Department of Justice. 

The case against Wright started with a 2017 federal investigation into possible corruption in the San Bernardino County city of Adelanto. During the investigation, Wright was introduced to two undercover FBI agents whose conversations in two separate plots were recorded, according to evidence presented at trial.

Wright, who was at the time an Adelanto city councilman and the city's mayor pro tem, was found to have accepted a $10,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent who claimed to want to relocate his marijuana business to Adelanto, but outside the zone designated for such businesses. After taking the bribe, prosecutors say Wright confirmed he would work to cut down code enforcement activities against the undercover agent, but would require a "stack" of $2,000 each time he stepped in.

Adelanto City Council Member Jermaine Wright stands near his 19-month-old foster daughter, Nova, talks to a reporter inside his Fat Boyz Grill restaurant near the "green zone", an area designated by the city for the development of industrial scale marijuana cultivation, on September 6, 2016 in Adelanto, California. Two years ago, the city of Adelanto, a crumbling outpost in California's Mojave desert, was facing a bleak future as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy and struggled with double-digit unemployment. Today, however, the once-desolate town is firmly back on the map, having joined a handful of communities in California in embracing large-scale commercial cannabis cultivation. / AFP / DAVID MCNEW (Photo credit should read DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images) DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

In a second scheme, prosecutors say Wright sought out someone who would burn down Fat Boyz Grill, his restaurant in Adelanto. At Wright's request, an informant passed his cell phone number to an "electrician" who was actually a second undercover FBI agent. In a meeting with the agent in October of 2017, Wright said he wanted the fire to happen on a certain day when the sprinkler system would be turned off, and confirmed his insurance policy covered everything, prosecutors said. Wright also gave the agent a tour of the restaurant, gave him a ladder to help with the arson, and discussed various tactics to ensure the planned arson would be successful.

The "electrician agreed to do the job for $1,500, which was paid at a meeting three days later.

Later that month, the FBI executed a search warrant at Fat Boyz Grill and interviewed Wright, who confessed to hiring the undercover agent to burn down the restaurant. 

Evidence presented during the trial also included Wright's efforts to make the FBI drop the case against him. Prosecutors say the informant who introduced Wright to the two undercover agents reported Wright was looking for help to make the agent "go away" and tried stage an assault on himself to make the FBI drop the case against him.

Wright, who was remanded into federal custody following the jury's verdict, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for both crimes.

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