Former congressional aide convicted in shakedown of Compton marijuana dispensary
The congressional aide accepted the bribe over lunch, $5,000 cash slipped inside a Compton restaurant menu.
As he pocketed the money, Michael Kimbrew pledged his “undying support” to protect a marijuana dispensary the city was trying to shut down, federal authorities said.
But what he didn’t know was that he was negotiating with an undercover FBI agent. Now, Kimbrew is facing up to 18 years in federal prison for the 2015 shakedown.
After a three-day trial, a federal jury on Thursday found him guilty of two felony counts, including bribery and attempted extortion, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. They deliberated about four hours.
Kimbrew was working as a field representative for then-Rep. Janice Hahn out of Compton City Hall when the conversations began in March 2015. Hahn’s spokeswoman has said Kimbrew worked for Hahn for about a year before he was let go in early 2016.
After his arrest last year, authorities detailed the case: They said Kimbrew approached the dispensary and claimed he was working with the FBI to make sure marijuana dispensaries were filing appropriate permits. Compton officials had already sent the shop a cease-and-desist letter.
Federal officials said Thursday that Kimbrew claimed to “oversee all activities in Compton,” saying that his federal employment gave him “authority” and “jurisdiction” over the actions of Compton public officials.
He made the shop an offer: If the owners reached “an agreement” with him, he could use that power to keep them in business. 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.
In May of that year, Kimbrew met with the undercover FBI agent at a restaurant in Compton.
In exchange for the payment, Kimbrew also agreed to help the shop secure a lucrative permit to stay in business, federal officials said.
Kimbrew was arrested in August of last year. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 4.
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