Federal corruption allegations against Los Angeles City Councilor Mark Ridley-Thomas and former USC Dean – NBC Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Councilor Mark Ridley-Thomas and a former dean of the USC School of Social Work were charged Wednesday on federal corruption charges of alleging a bribery scheme involving a relative of Ridley-Thomas in exchange for support for the Politician’s significant benefits from the university received contracts while serving on the county board.

The 20-point indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court alleges that Ridley-Thomas conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn, who agreed to have Ridley-Thomas’ son admitted to graduate school, a full scholarship, a paid professorship and a funnel mechanism to provide $ 100,000 in Ridley Thomas campaign money through the university to a nonprofit run by the family member.

In turn, the prosecution alleges that Ridley-Thomas supported contracts with the School of Social Work, including contracts for the provision of services for the District Child and Family Services Authority and probation service, as well as a contract change with the Department of Mental Health, that of the school Would bring millions of dollars in new revenue.

Los Angeles Ridley-Thomas, 66, and Los Angeles Flynn, 83, were briefed on the indictment Wednesday afternoon and have agreed to appear on their charges in Los Angeles federal court in the coming weeks, the US said -Public prosecutor .

Ridley-Thomas and Flynn representatives were unavailable Wednesday for comment.

USC issued a statement stating: “When the university learned of the $ 100,000 payment mentioned in the indictment in the summer of 2018, the university reported the issue to the US Attorney General and has since cooperated fully. Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by USC University since September 2018. We will continue to work with the US Attorney General and need to limit comments as this is a pending criminal case. “

Both Ridley-Thomas and Flynn are charged with conspiracy and bribery.

The indictment also accuses both defendants of two cases of “honest service” postal fraud and 15 cases of “honest service” wire transfer fraud.

“These indictments accuse a senior lawmaker of allegedly abusing the public’s trust by taking official measures to benefit himself and his family member,” Acting US Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement. “The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were made possible by a senior administrator at a major university whose desire for funding apparently trumped notions of integrity and fair play. Public corruption is one of the top issues we are pursuing and we will continue the investigation “To be prosecuted if public officials and other persons entrusted with taxpayers’ money break the law.”

The indictment outlines an alleged plan in 2017 and 2018 in which then-supervisor Ridley-Thomas von Flynn and university officials sought benefits for his relative who was the subject of an internal sexual harassment investigation in the state parliament who is likely to step down from the elected office becomes office and heavily in debt.

The indictment did not name the relative, however, and Ridley-Thomas’ son Sebastian resigned from the congregation in 2017 on an investigation into sexual harassment. He insisted at the time that his resignation was for health reasons and not a sexual harassment investigation. Sebastian Ridley-Thomas later became a professor of social work and public order at USC – despite not having a degree. He was later fired from the university because of questions about his original appointment and concerns about the $ 100,000 that was donated from his father’s campaign funds to the School of Social Work and then passed on to Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ nonprofit.

Prosecutors claim Mark Ridley-Thomas wanted his son to get paid employment in order to minimize the public consequences for both of them following the son’s sudden resignation. Meanwhile, the School of Social Work was facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit that threatened the viability of the school and Flynn’s position and reputation as the school’s longtime dean, the indictment said.

As part of the bribery program, Ridley-Thomas and Flynn allegedly took steps “to disguise, conceal and cover up the bribes, kickbacks and other benefits” received by Ridley-Thomas and his relative – which is the hiding of the official acts of the Ridley-Thomas agreed to perform in exchange for the financial benefits set out in the document.

The couple also reportedly hid the true purpose of the $ 100,000 that was channeled through the university to the relative’s nonprofit, which also violated several university policies regarding nonprofit funding, prosecutors said.

Within weeks after Ridley-Thomas contacted Flynn in May 2017 because his relative wanted a postgraduate degree from university, Flynn launched a campaign to secure both university admission and a full scholarship for the relative, prosecutors claim.

Flynn wrote in an email that she wanted to open every door for the family member, the indictment said. When a university official said RidleyThomas had “a lot of money at his own discretion” and was charged with “exchanging 1 million dollars for the school” for the university.

In June 2017, Ridley-Thomas and Flynn allegedly reached a settlement that Flynn later recalled in a confidential letter she gave Ridley-Thomas, prosecutors said. The indictment alleges that Flynn’s letter set out her expectations that Ridley-Thomas would direct new contracts with DCFS and probation to the School of Social Work and secure a lucrative change to an existing Telehealth DMH contract.

With the new change, Flynn expected the School of Social Work’s telehealth contract to raise about $ 9 million annually, prosecutors claim.

The indictment alleges that Ridley-Thomas took a number of official actions, including a vote in August 2017 on an application to form a partnership between the county and the school of social work and in October 2017 a vote on a motion related to the Probation University, this would create a source of funding for the county for the school.

Flynn told university officials in emails that she was “very happy to see that (Ridley-Thomas) kept his word” and that he was “really trying to deliver,” the indictment read.

The conspiracy count alleged in the indictment carries a sentence of up to five years in federal prison. Each bribery count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. Each of the charges of postal fraud and wire transfer fraud can be punished with a penalty of up to 20 years.

Ridley-Thomas is the third Los Angeles councilor to be indicted last year.

Jose Huizar pleaded not guilty to extortionate charges of bribery and other federal charges in December alleging he received at least $ 1.5 million and other benefits from developers seeking favorable treatment for pending real estate development projects. The trial is scheduled for May, in which political activists, lobbyists and the former director general of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Security were caught.

Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single crime last July, admitting trying to prevent federal investigators from finding out about cash and other freebies he received from a Southern California businessman. He was sentenced to 14 months in January for lying to federal authorities about his dealings with the businessman who provided him with $ 15,000 in clandestine cash payments and a night in Las Vegas.

Ridley-Thomas is a great local government figure who previously served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1991 to 2002, then served on the State Assembly and State Senate before being elected to the powerful County Board of Directors in 2008 and serving as him until 2020 returned to the city council.

He holds a PhD in social ethics from USC and was executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the Los Angeles area for 10 years from 1981.

The news of the prosecution sparked a swift reaction from councilor and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino, who urged Ridley-Thomas to resign.

“I am shocked, saddened and disgusted by the federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas,” Buscaino wrote on Twitter. “These allegations tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and it is for this reason that Ridley-Thomas should step down immediately.”

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