A former congressional aide was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of taking a bribe from a Compton marijuana shop, federal officials said.
Michael Kimbrew, 44, was working as a field representative for former Rep. Janice Hahn out of Compton City Hall when he allegedly promised to “make things happen” for the pot shop, which the city was seeking to shut down.
Kimbrew pleaded not guilty to one count each of attempted extortion and receiving a bribe, and was ordered freed on a $15,000 bond.
Neither Kimbrew nor his attorney was immediately available for comment. Authorities have not named the shop involved.
According to authorities, in March 2015, Kimbrew approached the dispensary and claimed he was working with the FBI to make sure marijuana dispensaries were filing appropriate permits. Compton officials had sent the shop a cease-and-desist letter, federal officials said, though it’s unclear whether Kimbrew knew about it, and if so, how.
He made the shop an offer, authorities said: If the owners reached “an agreement” with him, he could help them gain compliance. If not, the shop would be shut down.
In the weeks that followed, Kimbrew held separate meetings with the shop owners and a federal agent posing as their business partner inside an office at Compton City Hall, where Hahn rented space for a district office.
According to the federal grand jury indictment, Kimbrew told the shop owners he could “make things happen,” but it would come at a cost.
In exchange for $5,000, he said, he wouldn’t send federal authorities to close the shop and would help the owners obtain permits to keep operating, court records said.
In May of that year, Kimbrew met with the undercover FBI agent at a restaurant in Compton.
At the meeting, according to court records, the agent slid $5,000 in cash inside a menu and passed it to Kimbrew, who stuffed the money inside his pocket.
If convicted, Kimbrew faces a maximum of 18 years in federal prison.
On his LinkedIn profile, Kimbrew indicated he was a field representative for Hahn from December 2014 to February 2017. But Hahn’s spokeswoman said he worked for the former congresswoman for about a year before he was let go in early 2016.
Kimbrew is the son of a former Compton Unified School District board member, Basil Kimbrew, who has a history of public corruption.
In 2005, the elder Kimbrew was convicted of misappropriating funds for charging nearly $2,000 on his school board credit card to pay for a private party after he was forced to step down from the board.
In 2002, Basil Kimbrew pleaded no contest to lying that he lived in Compton when he filed to run for mayor there.
Several years before that, he testified in federal court that he accepted bribes on behalf of former City Councilwoman Patricia Moore. He said he didn't know the payments were bribes. He was never charged in the case.
Hahn, who is now a Los Angeles County supervisor, said in a prepared statement that the alleged crimes amounted to an abuse of Michael Kimbrew’s power.
“I’ve always trusted my employees to have the same sense of public service that I do,” she said. “If these charges are true, Mr. Kimbrew abused his power as a representative of my office and violated both my trust and the trust of the public."