A former mayor of the high desert city of Adelanto, California has been arrested on charges related to cannabis activity.
According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested 64-year-old Richard Allen Kerr on Friday, August 13.
The FBI previously raided Kerr’s office in 2018.
A federal grand jury indictment alleges that Kerr, who served as mayor from 2014 to 2018, accepted more than $57,000 in bribes and kickbacks in return for approval of ordinances authorizing commercial cannabis activity in Adelanto.
The activities allegedly ensured Kerr’s co-schemers received city licenses or commercial cannabis permits.
Kerr is facing seven counts of honest services wire fraud and two counts of bribery.
According to the August 11 indictment, Kerr voted on Adelanto’s zoning regulation ordinances and served on the city’s Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee.
The committee determined the number of dispensary permits and which applicants would receive them.
As a pro-cannabis mayor, Kerr voted to pass a cannabis cultivation ordinance, a medical cannabis dispensary ordinance, as well as distribution, transportation, medical cannabis testing, and other commercial cannabis activities.
According to the DOJ, in exchange for bribes, kickbacks, and gifts, Kerr secretly used his position as mayor to pass the ordinances and enrich himself and his co-conspirators.
Partners in Crime
The DOJ lists Kerr’s alleged co-schemers as a lawyer, and two individuals with business interests in the city, including cannabis cultivation.
The DOJ refers to the three as Persons A, C, and D, respectively.
Kerr and his co-schemers allegedly disguised the bribes and kickbacks as gifts and donations to Kerr’s election campaign, a charitable fund, and advance payments for proceeds of planned litigation associated with a motorcycle accident.
In exchange for the kickbacks, Kerr allegedly provided co-schemers with favorable action on the city’s behalf by authorizing commercial cannabis activities.
Such actions ensured Kerr’s supporters received licenses and permits, impeding enforcement activities by city officials.
The Adelanto City Council held a public discussion on November 29, 2016, regarding an ordinance.
The discussion included overlay zones where cannabis dispensaries would be.
According to the DOJ, the initial proposal showed two zones that did not include a former restaurant which Person A and his spouse had purchased two months earlier.
Kerr requested a boundary change in the second overlay zone to expand it to include Person A’s business.
According to the indictment, initial plans designated the building as an attorney’s office but featured elongated sales counters, a dispensing room, cashier, and security room.
The DOJ says that Kerr deposited a $5,000 check, dated November 29, 2016, from Person A’s real estate trust account into his bank account.
ADV XMAS FUND was written on the check memo line.
Kerr also voted twice in favor of a city ordinance that placed Person A’s business in the dispensary overlay zone in May 2017.
According to the DOJ, Kerr deposited three $10,000 checks from Person A’s law firm in February, June, and August 2017.
The memo lines on the checks stated ADVANCE.
The DOJ says that Kerr accepted at least $57,500 in bribes and kickbacks from Person A, Person C, and other co-schemers.
Kerr faces a potential maximum sentence of 160 years in federal prison if convicted of all charges.