A jury found former Adelanto Mayor Pro Tem Jermaine Wright guilty of attempted arson and bribery June 22.
Wright solicited $45,000 in bribes related to marijuana zoning and code enforcement from an undercover FBI agent, and hired a second undercover FBI agent to burn down his restaurant in a failed attempt to commit insurance fraud, according to the affidavit against him.
Wright continually trusted a confidential informant whom he considered a friend, who contacted the FBI for every crime Wright planned. Wright also told the informant to make an FBI agent “go away,” and appeared to have staged his own assault in order to plead memory loss, according to the affidavit. Wright was not charged for those actions.
Wright will be sentenced Sept. 12 for a minimum of five years in prison for the attempted arson, and a maximum of 30 years for both crimes, according to the Department of Justice.
FBI investigates marijuana-related corruption
The FBI began investigating Wright in June, 2017, after receiving information that he may have received bribe payments in return for rezoning land to be used for marijuana companies, according to FBI Special Agent Kevin Boles’ affidavit.
On June 15, 2017, the confidential informant introduced an undercover agent to Wright at Wright’s restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, according to Boles. The agent told Wright he was considering moving his marijuana cultivation business to Adelanto, and wanted to know if he could buy land outside Adelanto’s approved zone for marijuana cultivation, and later have the land re-zoned for his business. Wright told the agent he would have to purchase his vote, at the cost of $20,000, paid through a third party, according to Boles.
Wright voted to expand the city’s marijuana cultivation zone July 14, 2017, but did so without the $20,000 bribe, according to Boles.
When the agent talked with Wright after the vote, he asked for help with his permit. Wright agreed to help for $15,000. The agent did not pay that $15,000 either, according to Boles.
$10,00 bribe for code exemption
On Aug. 31, 2017, Wright met with the confidential informant, again at Fat Boyz Grill, according to Boles. The informant told Wright the agent’s property required an exemption to grow marijuana.
Wright told the informant he wanted 10% of the company’s annual profit to get the company an exemption, according to Boles.
At an Oct. 6, 2017, meeting, Wright agreed to include the agent’s business in future zone expansions, according to Boles. The agent paid Wright $10,000, with both parties saying they were for Wright’s nonprofit.
Public documents show Wright was the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Adelanto Youth Sports Foundation, founded in 2015, and suspended by the Secretary of State in 2018.
Wright also agreed to keep code enforcement away from the agent’s company, at a bribe of $2,000 each time.
On Aug. 3, 2017, Wright asked the confidential informant if he could help find an arsonist to burn down Fat Boyz Grill.
The informant connected Wright with a second FBI agent, who talked with Wright outside the restaurant Oct. 3, 2017.
Wright gave the agent a tour of the restaurant, and said the fire would have to be fast, because Adelanto’s fire station was five minutes away.
They agreed that the arson would cost $1,500, according to Boles.
Wright paid the agent $1,500 three days later, according to Boles.
Cover up: Make the agent “go away”
After being interviewed by Boles Oct. 17, 2017, regarding the attempted arson, Wright agreed to help the FBI probe into Adelanto corruption.
Wright was told that the man he hired to commit arson was an undercover agent.
The next day, Wright told the informant that they needed to make the undercover agent “go away,” because without him no one could testify against him, according to Boles. The informant told the FBI Wright wanted the agent murdered.
In a second, recorded conversation between Wright and the informant, Wright said the informant had “brought s**t to my door.”
“I have a defense attorney that can beat anything. The s**t has to go away from my door,” Wright said, according to Boles.
“Whatever you do, don’t come back to you, and doesn’t come back to me, and I don’t give a f**k what happens. I really don’t, but this s**t needs to be cleaned up,” Wright said.
Cover up: “Beat to the point where I have memory loss”
On Oct. 23, 2017, Wright told the informant in a recorded conversation to beat him to the point where his wife would return to him and he would claim memory loss as a legal defense, according to Boles.
Wright and his wife were estranged.
Wright and his wife were estranged. Wright said that if he were beaten badly, she would return and comfort him in the hospital, according to Boles.
He also said he could pretend to have memory loss, and wanted the assault to happen at 4 a.m. Oct. 26, 2017, in front of Fat Boyz Grill, at the time he usually started cooking on his barbecue.
“Beat to the point where I have memory loss, all the rest of the stuff, they have to let me go… I have a good ass attorney,” Wright said, according to Boles.
Wright said the assailant should put a rat next to him, so that the FBI would suspect he was beaten after agreeing to participate in their corruption probe.
Wright also suggested placing $500 in his pocket, so the person hired to assault him could take the money as payment, but make the assault appear to be a robbery.
Wright claimed he got the idea from a friend, who is a family law attorney.
“Six hundred bucks in my pocket, Thursday morning, I’m there at 3:30 in the morning out front. I’m there,” Wright said, according to Boles.
The informant refused to facilitate Wright’s assault, but on Nov. 3, 2017, Wright was beaten outside Fat Boyz Grill.
He had no visible injuries, and later told Boles he had a minor concussion. The recording device Boles had provided to Wright when he agreed to participate in the FBI’s corruption probe proved broken.
Wright told Boles an unknown man of unknown race had beaten him over his right eye multiple times with an unknown object. Wright said he had lost $2,000 to $3,000 in cash he had in his pocket at the time. Wright said he was going to pay his employees with the money.
Wright later called the FBI and asked why they did not stop the attack on him, considering that he knew they were watching him. He said he was on the ground for at least two hours before help arrived.
High schooler held Wright’s handgun
Wright had also lent his Glock to a convicted felon who was in charge of security at a fireworks stand in June, 2017, and never asked for it back, according to Boles. The stand was raising funds for the Adelanto Hurricanes youth sports organization.
The felon’s son, a 16-year-old Silverado High School student, took the gun to Silverado High School in Victorville in November, 2017.
California Central District Judge Jesus Bernal presided.
Sole practitioner David Kaloyanides of Chino represented Wright. Wright was previously represented by federal public defenders.
Sean Peterson and Joseph Widman of AUSA Office of US Attorney, Riverside Office, prosecuted.
Case number 5:17-cr-00229.
Read the affidavit here.