Former Upland mayor John J.P. Pomierski leaving federal court in Riverside on Thursday, March 3, 2011. (Gabriel Acosta/Staff photographer )

 

By Sandra Emerson Staff Writer
Created: 03/03/2011 07:00:11 PM PST

Former Upland Mayor John “JP” Pomierski surrendered to authorities on Thursday after being named in an 11-count indictment that accuses him of conspiracy, extortion and bribery offenses.

The indictment accuses Pomierski, 56, of forcing owners of two businesses to pay him $45,000 in bribes.

A federal grand jury has indicted Pomierski and the mayor’s appointee to a municipal board – John Hennes – on federal corruption charges that outline an extortion scheme targeting the two Upland businesses.

Pomierski and Hennes both pleaded not guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Riverside.

Pomierski turned himself in to authorities on Thursday morning.

Pomierski’s personal attorney, Robert Schauer, posted $75,000 bond for the former mayor. Pomierski is not allowed to leave the state of California. A judge also ruled he is not allowed to abuse alcohol because there was some concern about his current use.

Pomierski “through dedication and hard work served the city of Upland for over a decade,” said his criminal attorney, David Wiechert. “He overcame many obstacles during the same time period and this is another obstacle in which to overcome.”

Hennes, 54, of Upland, a member of the city’s Building Appeals Board, was arrested without incident Thursday morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He had not posted his $50,000 bond by late Thursday. He has until Monday to do so.

“The evidence found in our investigation suggests that the individuals charged didn’t deliver on election promises, but fostered a `pay-to-play’ environment to benefit personally, while taxpayers paid the price and were denied honest services,” said Steven Martinez, the assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles.

According to the indictment, Pomierski demanded and received money from the owners of two Upland businesses in exchange for the performance of official acts in connection with city government business and transactions.

The indictment alleges that Hennes and two others involved in the scheme – Jason Crebs and Anthony Sanchez – communicated Pomierski’s extortion demands to the business owners and collected money on behalf of Pomierski.

Hennes and the two other co-conspirators entered into consulting agreements with the business owners to disguise the nature of the payments and to protect Pomierski, according to the indictment.

The indictment does not specifically name the two businesses from which Pomierski allegedly extorted money, but the dates cited in the indictment match up to dates involved in the closure of the Chronic Cantina sports bar (referred to as Business A in the document) and of G3 Holistics, Inc., a medical marijuana co-op in Upland (Business B).

According to the indictment, $25,000 payments were demanded in 2007 and in 2009 from the owners of Business A in exchange for Pomierski’s assistance in obtaining permits for the business.

In exchange for the bribe payments, Pomierski, among other things, allegedly spoke to other city officials on behalf of the business and offered to speak with the members of the City Council when the business’ permit application came up for a vote.

The owners of Business A were allegedly told to keep their arrangement quiet because Pomierski did not want the public to know he was “fast tracking” their application.

One of the owners of Business A was cooperating in the investigation and the payments made by Business A to the defendants in 2009 actually consisted of money supplied by the FBI, authorities said.

In total, Business A made extortion payments totaling $35,000.

The Chronic Cantina was closed for remodeling in June 2007. In July, the city issued a stop-work notice pending issuance of required approvals and permits.

The business opened around January 2008 and its permit was revoked by the city on April 13, 2009.

The indictment further alleges that Pomierski demanded $20,000 from the owner of Business B in exchange for assisting in relation to legal action the city had taken against the medical marijuana dispensary.

The owner of that business paid $10,000 to a member of the conspiracy, who, at Pomierski’s direction, gave the $10,000 to Hennes.

The marijuana cooperative opened in November 2009. The city filed a civil complaint against the business on March 15, 2010. The city then filed a motion for preliminary injunction against the business in mid-June.

G3 Holistics was closed due to the injunction filed by the city.

The president of G3, Aaron Sandusky, filed a claim with the city on Monday accusing Pomierski of demanding a bribe of $20,000 in March. The company delivered a $10,000 payment to Hennes, according to the claim.

Prior to its opening, G3 was asked to pay $5,000 from an individual on behalf of Pomierski, but did not pay, according to the claim.

Sandusky said he is not surprised by the charges.

“I think it was coming like a lot of people were thinking,” Sandusky said. “I don’t think it’s over. I think there’s more to come.”

Crebs and Sanchez were charged Feb. 1 by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office. Sealed plea agreements were filed for them on Feb. 8.

Crebs pleaded not guilty in federal court on Wednesday.

Sanchez will be arraigned March 16.

In June, FBI and IRS agents confiscated records from City Hall and Pomierski’s home office. They also took records from J.H. Builders and Venture West Capital in Rancho Cucamonga.

Crebs and Sanchez were named in the search warrant for Pomierski’s phone and work for Venture West.

Crebs is the owner of JRC Group, which was also listed on the warrant.

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