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Former Upland mayor pleads guilty to federal bribery charges

April 26, 2012 | 11:09 am

Former Upland Mayor John Pomierski

This post has been corrected. Please see the note below.

Former Upland Mayor John Pomierski pleaded guilty Thursday to bribery involving a scheme to extort money and campaign contributions from businesses seeking permits and other city services.

Pomierski, 58, using intermediaries, 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.

In one case, Pomierski — at a business owner's request — urged the fire chief not to require fire sprinklers in the establishment.

According to federal court documents, Pomierski “would demand money from the owners of businesses located in the city of Upland in exchange for the performance of official acts in connection with Upland city government business and transactions."

He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 6.

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The nightclub, Chronic Cantina, was shut down by the city April 13, the same day its conditional use permit was revoked by the City Council.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 extorted money for city permits and other help.

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.

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.

Hennes pleaded guilty in November as part of a plea agreement under seal. Anthony Orlando Sanchez, a co-defendant added to the indictment in late 2011, pleaded not guilty in January in federal court in Riverside.

For the record, 12:20 p.m. April 26: A previous version of this post incorrectly listed the age of former Upland Mayor John Pomierski as 56.


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