Four Charged In State Bribery Scheme
Thursday, April 6, 2023
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Michigan
Rick Johnson, former Chairperson of the Michigan Medical Licensing Board, and three others have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in ongoing investigation
LANSING – U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that four men were charged in federal court for participating in the bribery of Rick Johnson, the former Chairperson of the Michigan Marijuana Licensing Board. All four defendants are cooperating with the investigation and have agreed to plead guilty to their offense.
“Public corruption is a poison to any democracy. Those who wield the power of state have a sacred obligation to serve the people they represent. But when a government official takes a bribe, they spurn that solemn duty – in favor of the connected, the crooked, and ultimately themselves,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “Now and always, my office will place the highest priority on rooting out public corruption, with independence and impartiality.”
U.S. Attorney Totten charged the following individuals today:
- Rick Vernon Johnson, 70, of Leroy was charged with Accepting a Bribe, a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
- John Dawood Dalaly, 70, of West Bloomfield was charged with Payment of a Bribe, a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
- Brian Dennis Pierce, 45, of Midland was charged with Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, a felony offense punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
- Vincent Tyler Brown, 32, of Royal Oak was charged with Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, a felony offense punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to court documents, Rick Johnson was a member and the Chairperson of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board (MMLB) between May 2017 and April 2019. John Dalaly operated two companies that were formed with the purpose of obtaining various operating licenses from the MMLB or exploring the licensing of a digital currency platform for medical marijuana financial transactions. Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown were lobbyists doing business as Philip Alan Brown Consulting, LLC and Michigan Grower’s Consultants, LLC, who lobbied on behalf of businesses and individuals who were seeking operating licenses from the MMLB. Johnson provided valuable non-public information about the anticipated rules and operation of the MMLB and assistance with license application matters to Dalaly, Pierce, Brown, and others that paid money to Johnson while he was Chairperson of the MMLB. The cash payments were made to three business entities, which Johnson used to accept payments from the companies, Philip Alan Brown Consulting, LLC, and Michigan Grower’s Consultants, LLC, to help hide those payments to Johnson while he was Chairperson of the MMLB. Between July 2018 and April 2019, Johnson voted in favor of approving the prequalification status of one of Dalaly’s companies and a company that was represented by Pierce and Brown and voted in favor of granting medical marijuana licenses to those companies.
All four defendants have agreed to plead guilty in written plea agreements that will be filed with the Court today. Johnson’s plea agreement states that he accepted more than $100,000 in cash payments and benefits while he was a member and Chairperson of the MMLB. Dalaly’s plea agreement states that he gave at least $68,200 in cash payments and other benefits to Johnson, including paying for Johnson’s travel on two private chartered flights to Canada. Pierce’s and Brown’s plea agreements state that they caused at least $42,000 in cash payments and other benefits to be given to Johnson. The defendants have agreed to cooperate with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the investigation of the charges as well as of any other federal crimes, including full, complete, and truthful interviews and testimony.
“It is always a sad day when someone who enjoys the trust of the people abuses that trust for his or her personal gain,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Public corruption is a top investigative priority for the FBI and today’s charges represent our continued commitment to working with the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure residents receive the fair and honest government to which they are entitled.”
The FBI’s investigation into this matter is ongoing. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher O’Connor and Clay Stiffler are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
A Felony Information contains allegations of criminal conduct, and all defendants are presumed innocent under the law until they are found guilty by the court or a jury.U.S. Department of Justice Press Release
Categories: Anti-Corruption Bribery Department of Justice (DOJ) Updates Enforcement Actions Indictments and Arrests
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