Former Congressional Staffer Tried to Shake Down a Pot Shop, Feds Allege

A former congressional staffer was arrested this week following a federal indictment that alleges he asked for $5,000 from a Compton marijuana dispensary in exchange for ensuring that it wasn't shut down by authorities.

But instead of getting money from a pot shop owner, an FBI agent posing as the business owner's partner handed 44-year-old Michael Kimbrew a fateful wad of cash, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The handover happened at an office inside Compton City Hall, the indictment, which was recently returned by a federal grand jury, alleges.

Kimbrew is the son of Basil Kimbrew, a well-known figure in area Democratic politics who has run local campaigns for office and who often sends out email blasts about African-American political issues. In 2004, the onetime member of the Compton Unified School District board was charged with suspicion of misusing public funds. The father was convicted in connection with the case and received a suspended sentence.

Michael Kimbrew once worked for county Supervisor Janice Hahn when she was a U.S. representative. According to Hahn's office, he spent about a year there before being let go in 2016 for reasons unknown.

"I've always trusted my employees to have the same sense of public service that I do," Hahn said in a statement last night. "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."

The suspect in the federal bribery case visited the marijuana collective in 2015 and claimed he worked at City Hall, had connections with the FBI and knew the shop was illegal, which the indictment alleges it indeed was, prosecutors said. Kimbrew said he could get the business documents, including a permit, that would put the retailer in compliance with the law, the indictment states. He said he could "make things happen," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Kimbrew vowed that he wouldn't send local or federal authorities to shut down the enterprise if he was paid, according to the allegations.

The suspect pleaded not guilty Tuesday and was freed based on $15,000 bond. He was scheduled to be back in court Sept. 26. Prosecutors say that if Kimbrew is successfully convicted, he could face as many as 18 years in federal prison.


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