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FORMER UPLAND MAYOR, SECOND CITY OFFICIAL INDICTED IN FEDERAL CORRUPTION CASE FOR DEMANDING $70,000 IN BRIBES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2011

Riverside, California –  A federal grand jury has indicted the former mayor of Upland and the mayor’s appointee to a municipal board on federal corruption charges that outline an extortion scheme targeting two Upland businesses

John Victor Pomierski, 56, of Upland, who resigned as mayor last week, is expected to surrender to authorities later today after being named in an 11-count indictment returned yesterday afternoon by a federal grand jury in Riverside. The indictment accuses Pomierski of conspiracy, extortion and bribery offenses in a scheme the led two victim business owners to actually pay a total of $45,000 in bribes.

The second defendant in the indictment – John Edward Hennes, 54, of Upland, who is a member of the Building Appeals Board of Upland –  was arrested without incident this morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Pomierski and Hennes are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon at 1:30 in United States District Court in Riverside.

According to the indictment, Pomierski demanded and received money from the owners of two Upland businesses in exchange for the performance of official acts in connection with Upland city government business and transactions. The indictment alleges that Hennes and two others involved in the scheme communicated Pomierski’s extortionate demands to the business owners and collected money on behalf of Pomierski. Hennes and the two other co-conspirators entered into consulting agreements with the business owners to disguise the nature of the payments and to protect Pomierski.

“The public can and should expect honesty and integrity from public officials – standards by which the mayor failed to abide,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “The allegations against Mr. Pomierski indicate that he intended to enrich himself by engaging in conduct that tarnishes all public officials. The residents of Southern California can rest assured that law enforcement is committed to uncovering corrupt politicians and seeing that citizens and businesses are not victimized by self-serving politicians.”

Steven Martinez, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, stated: “The citizens of Upland, like any community of taxpayers, deserve to be represented by trustworthy and honorable members of government. The evidence found in our investigation suggests that the individuals charged didn’t deliver on election promises, but fostered a ‘pay to play’ environment to benefit personally, while taxpayers paid the price and were denied honest services.”

According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy twice demanded $25,000 payments – once in 2007, and again in 2009 – from the owners of “Business A” in exchange for Pomierski’s assistance in obtaining permits for the business. In exchange for the bribe payments, Pomierski, among other things, allegedly spoke to other city officials on behalf of the business and offered to speak with the members of the City Council when the business’ permit application came up for a vote. The owners of “Business A” were allegedly told to keep their arrangement quiet because Pomierski did not want the public to know he was “fast tracking” their application. One of the owners of “Business A” was cooperating in the investigation and the payments made by “Business A” to the defendants in 2009 actually consisted of money supplied by the FBI. In total, “Business A” made extortionate payments totaling $35,000.

The indictment further alleges that Pomierski demanded $20,000 from the owner of “Business B” in exchange for assisting in relation to legal action the city had taken against “Business B.” The owner of that business paid $10,000 to a member of the conspiracy, who, at Pomierski’s direction, gave the $10,000 to Hennes.

On June 10, 2010, agents with the FBI executed search warrants at Upland City Hall, Pomierski’s residence, a Hennes-owned company called JH Builders and Venture West Capital, which is owned by two other co-conspirators who were previously charged. In connection with the searches, FBI agents interviewed Hennes, who denied to the agents that he had previously met with the owner of “Business A” and Pomierski. In a recorded conversation on June 28, Hennes admitted to one of the owners of “Business A” that he had lied to FBI agents. In addition to the corruption charges, Hennes is charged with making false statements to the FBI.

Pomierski and Hennes are both charged in the indictment with conspiracy and extortion under color of official right. Pomierski is also charged with accepting bribes.  Hennes is charged with making false statements to the FBI. Extortion under color of official right and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right both carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Bribery carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit bribery and false statements each carry a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

If convicted on all charges, Pomierski faces a statutory maximum penalty of 145 years in federal prison, and Hennes faces a maximum possible penalty of 50 years in federal prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Federal prosecutors previously charged two other defendants in relation to the extortion scheme. Jason Roy Crebs, 37, of Upland, and Anthony Orlando Sanchez, 35, of Rancho Cucamonga, the owners of Venture West Capital, were charged in a criminal information filed in federal court in Riverside on February 1. Crebs and Sanchez are both charged with aiding and abetting the demand and receipt of bribes. Crebs made his initial appearance yesterday in United States District Court in Riverside and was released on a $5,000 bond. Sanchez is scheduled to make his initial appearance on March 16. Court records show that both Crebs and Sanchez have entered into plea agreements, both of which were filed under seal.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which received assistance from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. In 2010, the FBI, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office formed the San Bernardino Joint Corruption Task Force to investigate allegations of corruption in San Bernardino County.

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Release No. 11-026

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