Former Adelanto Councilman Wright Gets 5 Years For Bribery And Attempted Arson

Former Adelanto Councilman Jermaine Wright, who sought to use his elected position to personally profit when he and his council colleagues moved to transform the city they led into the “marijuana capital of California,” was sentenced on Monday, October 3 to 60 months in federal prison.
After a six-day trial that began in late spring, Wright was convicted in federal court on June 22 of 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. His offenses qualified as prosecutable under federal statutes in that the city had received federal funds and the attempted arson he was involved in involved an insurance company doing business nationwide, such that his action potentially affected interstate commerce.
Wright, 46, of Riverside, was sentenced by United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal, who had also presided over his trial.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, who was then serving in the first year of his second elected four-year term on the council and was also serving in the capacity of Adelanto’s mayor pro tem, accepted a $10,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent during a meeting on October 6, 2017. The agent, in the persona of a marijuana delivery business owner, told Wright he wanted his assistance in securing votes to expand the marijuana business zone and for protection from code enforcement related to a marijuana transportation business. The undercover agent placed two stacks of one hundred $50 bills on a box being used as a table, telling Wright, “That’s for you, or your non-profit, whatever.” Wright responded, “My non-profit, yes sir. Thank you, sir,” before tucking the money into his pocket. After taking the bribe, Wright gave assurances he would assist with code enforcement and votes.
“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 man he referred to as 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 covered 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 FBI did not disclose to Wright that the “electrician” was actually an undercover agent. During the course of the exchange between the FBI agents and Wright, he agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation into the City of Adelanto, including wearing an electronic listening and recording device to prove corruption on the part of other Adelanto officials. The next day, the informant reported to the FBI that Wright, who had not yet put together that the informant was communicating with the FBI, had told him about the FBI raid at his restaurant, which had led Wright to the conclusion that the “electrician” was a “snitch.” Wright requested the informant’s assistance in finding a hitman to knock off the undercover agent, according to court documents.
“I am already in enough hot water as it is,” Wright told the informant. “You brought shit to my door. Do whatever you do to get shit off my door. I have a defense attorney that can beat anything. The shit has to go away from my front door. They [the FBI] want to flip me and… this is all they have on me. Whatever you do don’t come back to you and doesn’t come back to me, and I don’t give a fuck what happens. I really don’t, but this shit needs to be cleaned up.”
Assistant United States Attorney Sean D. Peterson, chief of the Riverside Branch Office, prosecuted Wright.
-Mark Gutglueck

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