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Ex-Upland mayor faces up to 10 years in prison after bribery plea

April 26, 2012 | 12:23 pm

Former Upland Mayor John Pomierski

Former Upland Mayor John Pomierski faces up to 10 years in federal prison at sentencing after he pleaded guilty Thursday to bribery and admitted accepting a $5,000 payment for helping a business obtain a permit.

Pomierski, 58, became the third person to be convicted in the scheme. Prosecutors said that through intermediaries he allegedly demanded $70,000 in payments from the owners of an Upland nightclub and a medical marijuana cooperative to help them obtain the required permits starting in 2007, according to federal prosecutors.

The ex-mayor entered the plea before U.S. Court Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside. It comes a year after he resigned and was indicted by federal prosecutors. Phillips will sentence him Aug. 6 to up to 10 years in prison.

Pomierski remains free on $75,000 bond.

“The public is entitled to honesty and integrity from the elected officials whom they entrust with power,” said U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. “Mr. Pomierski broke that trust when he decided to accept a bribe in return for a promise to circumvent the city’s well-established permitting system.

"This kind of conduct is an affront to the voters who follow the law and play by the rules, and who have a right to expect their elected officials to do the same.”

John Edward Hennes, a member of the city's building appeals board, acted as a go-between for the deals, according to federal prosecutors' court filings. He communicated the extortion demands to the business owners and collected the money, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Jerry Behke. Hennes has already pleaded guilty.

Pomierski is the owner of JP Construction Co., which received at least $90,000 in income from Hennes' company, J.H. Builders in Upland, over the last decade, according to the mayor's financial disclosure forms.

Though prosecutors did not name the businesses involved, Aaron Sandusky, owner of the medical marijuana cooperative G3 Holistics in Upland, told The Times last year that one of Pomierski's representatives demanded $20,000 from the cooperative to suspend the city's efforts to close the business.

Sandusky said he paid $10,000 to a go-between but refused to pay the remainder.

"It's hard enough to run a business, let alone this kind of business," Sandusky said. "When this happens, where do I go? The police? The FBI? I'm in the medical marijuana business. I'm an easy target." Sandusky said he later cooperated with the FBI.

The nightclub, Chronic Cantina, was shut down by the city April 13, the same day its conditional use permit was revoked by the City Council. Owners of the club subsequently sued the former mayor and city officials, alleging he tried to extort money for city permits and other help.

A third defendant, Jason Roy Crebs, 39, has pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery. Crebs is slated for sentencing June 25 and also faces up to 10 years in prison.

Meanwhile, a fourth defendant, Anthony Orlando Sanchez, who owns a venture capital business, has pleaded not guilty to charges he was a conduit between an Upland business and the former mayor.

The investigation is one of several stemming from a San Bernardino Joint Corruption Task Force probing misconduct in the region's government entities.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Former Upland Mayor John Pomierski leaves the federal courthouse in Riverside last year. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times