Former Michigan House Speaker sentenced to 55 months in prison on bribery charges
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WILX) - Former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Rick Johnson, has been sentenced to 55 months in federal prison.
Johnson was a state representative from 1999-2004 and from 2001-2004, served as Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives. From May 2017 to April 2019, he served as chair of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board.
Previous coverage: Former House Speaker among four charged in public corruption scheme
Johnson—along with three other defendants, John Dawood Dalaly, Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown—signed a plea agreement and admitted guilt to multiple charges. Authorities said all four were cooperating with the investigation.
Dalaly operated two businesses, which were not named per DOJ policy of not naming uncharged third parties. One of those companies was registered for the purpose of seeking licenses to operate as a medical marijuana provisioning center. The second was registered for the purpose of exploring the creation of a digital currency platform for marijuana transactions. Dalalay was charged with the payment of bribes.
According to U.S. Attorney Mark Totten, Johnson accepted more than $110,000 in bribe payments while serving as chair of the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board. Johnson also accepted gifts of cash payments, flights to Canada on private planes, and “commercial sex” paid for by others.
According to the US Department of Justice, Johnson took steps to conceal bribes, such as using burner phones, laundering bribes through LLCs, and using aliases such as “Batman.” Johnson would then give unfair advantages to bribe payers on licensing applications.
Co-conspirator John Dalaly was sentenced to 28 months in federal prison after he paid Johnson $68,200 in bribes. Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown have not been sentenced, but are accused of paying $42,000 to Johnson.
“Public corruption is the top criminal investigative priority for the FBI,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “I am thankful for the outstanding FBI personnel for their daily commitment to following the facts, not politics, wherever they lead, particularly in this case. The FBI continues to urge concerned citizens to report public corruption information they believe they may have by calling FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submitting tips online at tips.fbi.gov.”
Lobbyists Pierce and Brown did business as Philip Alan Brown Consulting LLC., and Michigan Growers Consultants LLC. Both lobbied on behalf of businesses seeking operating licenses from the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board. Those businesses were not named per DOJ policy. Brown and Pierce were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.
The three unnamed businesses involved are referred to as ‘Company A,’ ‘Company B,’ and ‘Company C.’
Totten said Johnson accepted multiple bribes while serving as chair of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board. Those bribes exceeded $100,000 in cash payments and other benefits from multiple sources.
“Johnson accepted the bribes corruptly,” Totten said. “He accepted them with the understanding that these bribes were offered to influence him or to reward him for actions he might take. Namely to help the payers of the bribe to obtain licenses.”
Totten said Dalaly gave Johnson at least $68,000 in cash payments and other benefits through his two companies, including paying for private travel from Michigan to Canada on two chartered flights.
“Pierce and Brown bribed Johnson, causing at least $42,000 to flow to Johnson through various entities that they ran,” Totten added. “They made these payments for two corrupt purposes. First to obtain clients and the revenue those clients generated by promoting the access they had to Johnson. Second to influence Johnson to help their marijuana clients obtain licenses.”
Totten said the payments were hidden by having them go to various LLCs Johnson controlled.
“In the end, Johnson would vote in favor of approving the prequalification status and, ultimately, the license for company A and company C. Company B did not ultimately seek a license.”
You can read more in-depth on the charges that were filed against the four defendants back in April in the document below:
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