On September 28, 2023, Rick Vernon Johnson, a 70-year-old resident of LeRoy, Michigan, received a 55-month federal prison sentence and a $50,000 fine from the U.S. District Court. He was convicted of soliciting and accepting bribes during his term as the former Chair of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board (MMLB). Johnson was also ordered to forfeit an additional $110,200 and will serve two years on supervised release after his prison term.

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Rick Johnson served as a member and Chair of the MMLB from May 2017 to April 2019. Before his role on the Board, he worked as a lobbyist in Lansing, Michigan, and had previously served as the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2001 to 2004.

His illegal activities included accepting bribes totaling at least $110,200 while he held the position of MMLB Chair. These bribes involved cash payments, private flights to Canada, and commercial sex paid for by others. Johnson’s co-defendant, John Dalaly, was sentenced to 28 months in federal prison on September 14, 2023, for paying Johnson $68,200 in bribes. Additionally, co-defendants Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown, who will be sentenced on October 18, 2023, paid $42,000 to or for the benefit of Johnson.

In an effort to conceal these bribes, Johnson took various measures, such as using a second “burner” phone and channeling bribes through several limited liability companies he controlled to obscure their true purpose. Moreover, those providing the bribes often referred to Johnson by the alias “Batman.”

In exchange for these illegal payments, Johnson granted the bribe providers an unfair advantage. This included casting favorable votes on license applications, offering support throughout the licensing process, and providing access to confidential information regarding the MMLB’s operations and other applicants.