LA City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas indicted on federal corruption charges
LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles City Councilman is being indicted on federal corruption charges.
The 20-count indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court alleges that Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of USC's School of Social Work are both being indicted in connection to a bribery scheme.
In the alleged bribery scheme, a relative of Ridley-Thomas received "substantial benefits from the university in exchange for Ridley-Thomas supporting county contracts and lucrative contract amendments with the university while he served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
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Ridley-Thomas is accused of conspiring with Marilyn Louise Flynn, the ex-dean who agreed to give Ridley-Thomas' relative "with graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a non-profit to be operated by the relative."
Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas attends the Wendy Raquel Robinson And Amazing Grace Conservatory's "There's No Place Like Home" 20th AnniverSoiree at HNYPT on November 5, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty
In exchange, the indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported contracts involving the School of Social Work, including contracts to provide services to the county Department of Children and Family Services and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.
Both Ridley-Thomas, 66, and Flynn, 83, are charged with one count of conspiracy, and each defendant is charged with one count of bribery. The indictment also charges both defendants with two counts of "honest services" mail fraud and 15 counts of "honest services" wire fraud.
"This indictment charges a seasoned lawmaker who allegedly abused the public's trust by taking official actions to benefit himself and his family member," Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement. "The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were facilitated by a major university's high-ranking administrator whose desire for funding apparently trumped notions of integrity and fair play. Public corruption cases are among the most important matters we pursue, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute whenever public officials and others entrusted with taxpayer funds break the law."
Ridley-Thomas and Flynn will be arraigned in the U.S. District Court in the coming weeks. The U.S. Attorney's Office explained in a press release that the "conspiracy count alleged in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. Each bribery count carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years. Each of the mail fraud and wire fraud charges carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years."
The FBI is also investigating the case.
USC issued the following statement in response to the allegations against the school's ex-dean:
"When the university learned in the summer of 2018 about the $100,000 payment referenced in the indictment, the university disclosed the issue to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and has fully cooperated ever since. Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the university since September 2018. We will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and must limit comments because this is a pending criminal matter."
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez released the following statement:
"I’m disappointed in the news that has come out this afternoon of federal bribery charges against Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. While the alleged crimes took place while Mr. Ridley-Thomas sat on the Board of Supervisors, these charges are serious and the Council will need to take appropriate action."
Los Angeles mayoral candidate and former city president pro tempore Joe Buscaino slammed Ridley-Thomas for the allegations against his colleague.
"I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted by the Federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas. These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and because of that, Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position," Buscaino tweeted.