By Cat Keniston
A former congressional aide has been arrested on suspicion of taking a bribe from a Compton marijuana shop, federal officials said in remarks reported Thursday.
Michael Kimbrew, 44, was working as a field representative for former Rep. Janice Hahn out of Compton City Hall when he allegedly promised to "make things happen" for the pot shop, which the city was seeking to shut down, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Kimbrew pleaded not guilty to one count each of attempted extortion and receiving a bribe, and was ordered freed on a $15,000 bond.
According to authorities, Kimbrew approached the dispensary in March 2015 and claimed he was working with the FBI to make sure marijuana dispensaries were filing appropriate permits. Compton officials had sent the shop a cease-and-desist letter, federal officials told The Times, though it's unclear whether Kimbrew knew about it, and if so, how.
He made the shop an offer, authorities said, according to The Times. If the owners reached "an agreement" with him, he could help them gain compliance. 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, The Times reported.
According to the federal grand jury indictment, Kimbrew told the shop owners he could "make things happen" but it would come at a cost. In exchange for $5,000, he said, he wouldn't send federal authorities to close the shop and would help the owners obtain permits to keep operating, according to court records quoted by The Times.
In May of that year, Kimbrew met with the undercover FBI agent at a restaurant in Compton. According to court records, the agent slid $5,000 in cash inside a menu and passed it to Kimbrew, who stuffed the money inside his pocket.
Hahn—now a county supervisor—expressed surprise at the allegations.
“I've always trusted my employees to have the same sense of public
service that I do,” she said in a prepared statement. “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.”
In 2005, Kimbrew's father, Basil, a former member of the Compton Unified
School District board, pleaded no contest to misappropriation of public funds
for using a school district credit card to ring up some $2,000 in charges for a
personal party at a Burbank hotel. He repaid the money, and a judge sentenced
him to five years’ probation and restricted his involvement with political
campaigns or candidates.
The elder Kimbrew also pleaded no contest in November 2002 to falsifying
his address to run for office. Authorities said was living in Carson when he
ran for the Compton school board.