RIVERSIDE, California – The former mayor pro tem of Adelanto was sentenced today to 60 months in federal prison for accepting a $10,000 cash bribe and hiring a man to burn down his restaurant so he could fraudulently collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance proceeds.
Jermaine Wright, 46, of Riverside, was sentenced by United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal.
At the conclusion of a six-day trial, a federal jury on June 22 found Wright guilty of one count of bribery of programs receiving federal funds and one count of attempted arson of a building affecting interstate commerce.
In early 2017, federal investigators began a probe into possible corruption in Adelanto, a city located in San Bernardino County. During the investigation, law enforcement used an informant who introduced Wright to two undercover FBI agents and recorded a series of conversations in which Wright discussed both plots.
In the first scheme, Wright – then an Adelanto city councilman as well as the city’s mayor pro tem – accepted a $10,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent who told Wright he wanted his assistance in securing votes to expand the marijuana business zone, and for protection from code enforcement related to a supposed marijuana transportation business.
“Unfortunately, [Wright’s] decision to accept a $10,000 bribe payment was not a one-off event,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “The recordings in this case show that he spoke to the undercover agent…over a period of months. [Wright] initially quoted a price of $20,000 for his vote on a City Council matter. Later, he suggested $15,000 for ‘pushing’ permits. Finally, he accepted a $10,000 payment, and he said that he expected ‘a stack,’ or $2,000, each time he would interfere with code enforcement going forward.”
In the second scheme, in August 2017, Wright sought the informant’s assistance in finding someone to burn down Fat Boyz Grill, his restaurant in Adelanto. In late September, Wright asked the informant to pass his cell phone number to the “electrician” – so named because Wright wanted the cause of the fire to appear to be an electrical problem.
Wright met the “electrician” – actually the second undercover FBI agent – on October 3, 2017 and said he wanted the fire on the following Saturday when the sprinkler system would be turned off. After Wright assured the undercover agent that his insurance policy covers everything, the “electrician” agreed to do the job for $1,500. At a meeting three days later, Wright paid the $1,500 after the undercover agent told Wright he needed more time to prepare for the job.
Wright also gave the agent a tour of the restaurant and assisted in the planning of the arson by providing a ladder for the undercover agent and discussing various tactics to ensure the planned arson would be a success.
In October 2017, 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. The next day, the informant reported to the FBI that Wright had told the informant that the FBI had approached Wright, and that Wright requested the informant’s assistance in making the undercover agent “go away,” according to court documents.
In October 2017, 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. The next day, the informant reported to the FBI that Wright had told the informant that the FBI had approached Wright, and that Wright requested the informant’s assistance in making the undercover agent “go away.”
The FBI investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Sean D. Peterson, Chief of the Riverside Branch Office, prosecuted this case.