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US Congressman's assistant jailed for bribery and attempted extortion.

FCRO Subsection: 
Editorial Staff

It would be nice if the US Department of Justice wrote its media releases in correct English. In this case, despite what the DoJ says, the defendant did not "attempt to extort a marijuana dispensary," he attempted to extort money from the owners of the dispensary. And you thought the only problems California's relaxed attitude to the retailing of MaryJane was how the operators would bank their money. No, the operators are exposed to bad guys wearing suits just as much as bad guys wearing bling and carrying weapons.

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Michael Kimbrew, 45, of Santa Clarita, was once a member of the staff of (then) Democrat Member of the House of Representatives Janice Hahn. Hahn left Congress in 2016 and is now the member of the Board of Supervisors for the city of Los Angeles, representing the 4th District. That is significant because, according to City records (see http://ceo.lacounty.gov/forms/...) Compton is not in that District. It is, however, within the 44th Congressional District and that was Hahn's area.

It was this that provided Kimbrew with his credibility when he told the owners of a legal marijuana dispensary that he had powerful connections and that he could "wield his power as a federal employee and public official to help the shop obtain a permit to continue operating their lucrative business [edited for sense]".

The DoJ statement says "According to the evidence presented at trial, Kimbrew claimed to “oversee all activities in Compton” and threatened the shop’s owners, an employee of the shop and, later, an undercover FBI agent in recorded meetings that he was going to shut down the shop unless he received the bribe. He claimed that, by virtue of his federal employment for the Congress member, he had “authority” and “jurisdiction” over what Compton public officials and departments did. In exchange for the USD5,000, he promised to exercise that authority and jurisdiction to keep the shop in business. Ultimately, during a lunch meeting in Compton, Kimbrew accepted USD5,000 in cash hidden inside of a restaurant menu from the undercover agent. When he pocketed the cash, Kimbrew pledged his “undying support” to protect the shop."

In July 2018, Kimbrew was sentenced to 18 months in jail for bribery and attempted extortion plus a further three years of probation (the USA calls it "supervised release" and fined USD4,000. He was also ordered to pay USD5,000 in restitution - although quite how anyone actually lost USD5,000 in the undercover scheme is not made clear.