The former mayor of Adelanto, who led an ambitious push to turn the high desert into a center for marijuana business, was arrested Friday and charged with accepting bribes and kickbacks from cannabis operators.
Rich Kerr, 64, was taken into federal custody without incident Friday morning as prosecutors unsealed an indictment that includes seven counts of honest services wire fraud and two counts of bribery.
Kerr is accused of accepting more than $57,000 in illicit payments from business people in exchange for his help making sure they received the permits and licenses needed to run various marijuana operations in the town. The money, prosecutors alleged, was disguised by Kerr and his co-schemers as gifts, donations to a charitable fund or Kerr’s election campaign, and other ruses.
Kerr, who served as Adelanto’s mayor from 2014 to 2018, came under suspicion of authorities while still in office. In 2018, federal agents served search warrants on Kerr’s home, City Hall and a local marijuana dispensary. Kerr is the second elected official from Adelanto to be accused of accepting bribes for fast-tracking marijuana businesses. In 2017, then-Mayor Pro Tem Jermaine Wright was charged with a similar scheme.
As mayor, Kerr was a strong proponent of opening the city to legal marijuana operations. He voted to allow marijuana cultivation in the city, medical marijuana dispensaries to operate, and an array of other commercial marijuana activities, according to the indictment. His support, prosecutors allege, stemmed at least in part from his desire to enrich himself.
According to an indictment issued by a grand jury this week, Kerr exploited his role as mayor to vote to approve city ordinances that helped the people paying him and served on Adelanto’s Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee, which determined the number of permits that would be issued and which applicants would receive them.
Published: August 16, 2021
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