L.A. City Councilman Ridley-Thomas, ex-USC dean indicted on federal corruption charges
Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and a former USC dean have been indicted for their roles in an alleged bribery scheme, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. Ridley-Thomas and Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former tenured professor and the dean of the USC School of Social Work, were named in a 20-count indictment that alleged the politician, [...]
Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and a former USC dean have been indicted for their roles in an alleged bribery scheme, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Ridley-Thomas and Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former tenured professor and the dean of the USC School of Social Work, were named in a 20-count indictment that alleged the politician, then serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, traded "supporting county contracts and lucrative contract amendments with the university" in exchange for benefits for a relative in 2017 and 2018.
The relative in question is Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, the council member's son, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas received benefits from USC such as "graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel" campaign funds to Mark Ridley-Thomas using a nonprofit operated by Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, the indictment said.
He was ultimately fired by the school after questions were raised about his hiring, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The USC School of Social Work received "contracts to provide services to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health (DMH) that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue," the indictment added.
Ridley-Thomas, 66, and Flynn, 83, both of Los Angeles, will be arraigned in United States District Court in the coming weeks.
“This indictment charges a seasoned lawmaker who allegedly abused the public's trust by taking official actions to benefit his family member and himself,” 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.”
In a statement, City Council President Nury Martinez said she was "disappointed" by the news of the charges.
"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," Martinez said.
At the time of the alleged scheme, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was serving in the state Assembly, but he was facing sexual harassment allegations and was "significantly in debt," according to prosecutors.
"[Mark] Ridley-Thomas allegedly wanted to help secure paid employment for his relative to minimize any public fallout for them both in the wake of the sudden resignation from office. Meanwhile, the Social Work School was facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, which threatened the school’s viability as well as Flynn’s position and reputation as the school’s longtime dean, according to the indictment," prosecutors said in their release.
Both defendants face one charge each of conspiracy and bribery, and they also face multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, the release said.
The release added that each conspiracy count could result in up to five years in federal prison, while each bribery count carries a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. Each fraud charge could result in up to 20 years in prison.
“This investigation should send a message to public officials that government contracts are not for sale,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “This indictment reaffirms the FBI’s commitment to rooting out corruption by holding accountable those who abuse the trust of the people they serve and who exploit their powerful positions to obtain benefits at the expense of taxpayers.”