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Press Release

Former Adelanto Mayor Agrees to Plead Guilty to Wire Fraud Charge for Accepting Bribes in Support of Commercial Marijuana Activity

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

          SANTA ANA, California – The former mayor of Adelanto has agreed to plead guilty to a federal criminal charge for accepting more than $57,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for approving ordinances authorizing commercial marijuana activity within the city, and ensuring his co-schemers obtained city licenses or permits for their commercial marijuana activities, the Justice Department announced today.

          Richard Allen Kerr, 65, of Adelanto, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of honest services wire fraud, a crime that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

          United States District Judge John W. Holcomb scheduled a February 17 change of plea hearing for Kerr.

          According to his plea agreement filed on Thursday afternoon in United States District Court, Kerr served as Adelanto mayor from 2015 to 2018. Based on his employment and duties, Kerr owed a duty of honest services to the city and its residents. Among other things, Kerr voted on ordinances governing zoning regulations in the city, and served on the city’s Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee, which determined the number of dispensary permits that would be issued, and determined which applicants would receive a dispensary permit.

          From at least November 2015 to June 2018, Kerr executed a scheme to deprive the city of the honest performance of his duties as mayor. Kerr secretly used his official position to enrich himself and his co-schemers by passing ordinances authorizing various types of commercial marijuana activities, including marijuana cultivation, marijuana distribution and transportation, and retail sales of marijuana via a dispensary.

          Kerr also drafted zones for commercial marijuana activities to include locations used by his supporters, ensured his supporters obtained the licenses or permits they sought; all in violation of conflict-of-interest prohibitions applying to Kerr, in exchange for bribes, kickbacks, gifts, payments, and other things of value.

          Kerr’s co-schemers were a lawyer who specialized in plaintiffs’ tort litigation – identified in court documents as “Person A” – and an individual labeled “Person C” who had business interests in the city, including those involving marijuana cultivation.

          The bribes and kickbacks were disguised by Kerr and his co-schemers as gifts, donations to a charitable fund, donations to Kerr’s election campaign, or advance payments for the proceeds of planned litigation associated with a motorcycle accident.

          In exchange for the bribes and kickbacks, Kerr provided favorable official action on behalf of the city to Person A, Person C, and other co-schemers with business interests in the city by authorizing various types of commercial marijuana activities, ensuring his supporters obtained the licenses or permits they sought, and interfering with enforcement activities by city officials.

          From December 2016 to April 2018, Kerr – who did not publicly disclose his financial relationship with his co-schemers while he was mayor – accepted multiple payments totaling at least $57,500, in bribes and kickbacks from Person A, Person C, and other co-schemers.

          The FBI investigated this matter.

          Assistant United States Attorneys Sean D. Peterson, Chief of the Riverside Branch Office, and Julius J. Nam of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, are prosecuting this case.

Contact

Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
ciaran.mcevoy@usdoj.gov
(213) 894-4465

Updated January 13, 2023

Topics
Public Corruption
Release Number: 23-007