For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Michigan
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown were sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge Jane Beckering for paying bribes to Rick Vernon Johnson, the former Chairperson of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board.
Pierce, 45, of Midland, Michigan, was sentenced to serve 24 months in federal prison, fined $25,000 and will serve two years on supervised release following his release from prison. Brown, 33, of Royal Oak, Michigan, was sentenced to serve 20 months in prison, fined $25,000 and will serve two years on supervised release following his release from prison.
“Mr. Pierce and Mr. Brown deliberately bribed Rick Johnson for their own personal gain,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “As I’ve said before, public corruption is a poison to our democracy and shatters the people’s trust in public officials. My office will hold offenders accountable – whomever, whenever, and wherever we find corruption and blatant disregard for the rule of law.”
Rick Johnson was a member and the Chairperson of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board (MMLB) between May 2017 and April 2019. Prior to his appointment to that Board, Johnson worked as a lobbyist in Lansing, Michigan, and served as Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.
Pierce and Brown worked as lobbyists in Lansing, Michigan, who did business together as Philip Alan Brown Consulting, LLC and Michigan Grower’s Consultants, LLC. Pierce and Brown lobbied on behalf of various businesses seeking operating licenses from the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board. Pierce and Brown admitted paying Johnson a total of $40,000 between June 2017 to November 2018 when Johnson was Chairperson of the licensing board, and at Johnson’s request, Pierce paid a total of $2,000 to a Detroit stripper who was having commercial sex with Johnson. The payments were made to influence and reward Johnson in connection with his official duties on the Board, including receiving his assistance for their clients who applied for licenses to operate in the newly developing marijuana industry.
“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 investigative facts wherever they lead, particularly in this case. My office 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.”
Assistant United States Attorneys Chris O’Connor and Clay Stiffler are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
MEDIA NOTE: U.S. Attorney Totten’s remarks following today’s sentencings can be viewed at @usao.wdmi on the U.S. Attorney’s Facebook Page.
Previous press releases concerning this case can be viewed by visiting the below links.
Johnson Obtained More Than $110,000 in Bribe Payments; U.S. Attorney Mark Totten Affirms Commitment to Fight Public Corruption
- Oakland County Businessman Sentenced to 28 Months in Federal Prison for Paying Bribes to Rick Johnson
Rick Johnson, former Chairperson of the Michigan Medical Licensing Board, and three others have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in ongoing investigation