(CN) – A restaurant-bar claims city officials in Upland, Calif., including the mayor and police chief, drove it out of business after the owners refused to pay $40,000 in bribes. Mayor John Victor Pomierski “abruptly resigned” in February “as the FBI investigated allegations of bribery, extortion and money laundering,” the cantina says.
Plaintiff Chronic Cantina operated in Upland until the defendants put it “completely out of business” by denying it permits, according to the complaint in San Bernardino County Court, Rancho Cucamonga.
The Cantina claims that “Pomierski, [Upland Building Appeals Board member John Edward] Hennes, and [Upland Police Chief Steve] Adams conspired to extort money from the owners of certain businesses operating in Upland (the ‘extortion scheme’). Defendants would demand money from business owners and business establishments such as the Cantina in exchange for the performance of official acts”.
The Cantina says it “fully cooperated with the FBI’s investigation into the conduct of defendants Pomierski and Hennes and did not file its claim and complaint until shortly after the indictment was filed in U.S. District Court against defendants.”
“On March 2, 2011, the Grand Jury indicted defendants Pomierski and Hennes” for conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official rights, conspiracy, and bribery involving federally funded programs, according to the complaint.
Although Police Chief Adams and J.H. Builders are named as defendants, the complaint does not state that they were indicted. J.H. Builders is described as a business that “specialized in construction and was wholly owned, operated and controlled by defendant Hennes.”
The complaint adds: “Adams was a co-conspirator with Pomierski, Hennes and J.H. in that Adams carried out and assisted in the execution of the conspiracy.”
The Cantina claims Hennes and other unnamed co-conspirators communicated Pomierski’s extortion demands to business owners and collected money on behalf of the mayor.
“Defendant Hennes, J.H. and other co-conspirators would sometimes enter into consulting agreements and contracts with the business owners to disguise and conceal the payments from the business owners to defendant Pomierski,” the complaint states.
The defendants “threatened that the Cantina would lose its right to operate its business” if it did not pay $40,000 in bribes, the restaurant claims.
The Cantina says it paid $15,000 “in order to continue to keep its business open and free from interference from the city of Upland,” but “when defendants did not receive the additional $25,000, true to their threats and extortion, the Cantina’s conditional use permit was revoked on or about April 13, 2009.”
The complaint adds: “Mayor Pomierski abruptly resigned amid a federal corruption probe. John Pomierski stepped down as the FBI investigated allegations of bribery, extortion and money laundering. FBI agents seized documents from Upland City Hall and Pomierski’s home.”
The Cantina claims “that defendants conducted their extortion scheme from July 2007 through June 28, 2010.”
It seeks compensatory and punitive damages for civil conspiracy, extortion, abuse of process and interference. It is represented by Brian McCormack with Callahan & Blaine of Santa Ana, Calif.