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Home / News / Politics / Ex-Anaheim mayor to plead guilty to federal corruption charges

Ex-Anaheim mayor to plead guilty to federal corruption charges

by City News Service
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Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of obstruction of justice, wire fraud and lying to federal investigators stemming in part from his actions during a city effort to sell Angel Stadium, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

“While serving as Anaheim’s mayor, Mr. Sidhu took a series of actions that compromised the city’s negotiating position by providing confidential information and secretly working to influence the city’s decision-making process — all of which had a detrimental effect on the city and its residents,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph T. McNally said in a statement. “Public confidence in the integrity of public officials is critical to our society. This office will continue to root out public officials who compromise their integrity.”

Prosecutors allege in the court papers that during the city’s 2020 negotiations to sell the stadium to the Angels, Sidhu provided “confidential inside information belonging to the city — including confidential negotiation information” to an Angels consultant and Todd Ament, then-Anaheim Chamber of Commerce co-president.

Prosecutors said Sidhu was later caught on tape saying he expected a $1 million campaign contribution from the Angels in exchange for the information he provided.

Sidhu later “knowingly destroyed multiple email messages and documents related to this conduct,” according to the plea agreement, in an effort “to impede and obstruct the FBI’s investigation of public corruption” involving the proposed stadium sale.

According to prosecutors, one of the emails allegedly destroyed by Sidhu detailed plans for “mock City Council meetings” that were being planned to help other council members and Angels officials prepare for the actual meeting at which the stadium sale would be discussed.

The plea agreement includes what was an apparent agenda for one of those mock meetings, in which participants would “run through a mock council session straight through one time at the start to identify pitfalls and areas of vulnerability.” The session would also include Angels officials “to help develop ‘zingers,’ responses and other points to improve performance,” according to the court papers.

According to prosecutors, Sidhu also admits in the court papers that he lied about the sale negotiations to FBI investigators, telling them he did not expect to receive any campaign contributions from the Angels.

Separately, Sidhu also admits lying to the Federal Aviation Administration about his purchase and registration of a helicopter, which he bought while listing an Arizona home address despite living in Anaheim, amounting to tax fraud by avoiding payment of nearly $16,000 in California sales taxes, prosecutors said.

Sidhu is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Santa Ana later this month. A date has not been set for him to enter his plea.

Prosecutors said he faces up to 10 years in prison for obstruction of justice, 20 years for wire fraud and five years each for the two false statements charges.

In a statement, Sidhu’s attorney Paul Meyer said, “Former Mayor Sidhu appreciates the thorough and fair investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office leading to a resolution in this matter.”

Sidhu resigned in May 2022, saying he did not want to be a “distraction” to the city while the federal investigation was ongoing.

“This is a sad day for the city of Anaheim, and it’s possibly just the tip of the iceberg,” Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said in a statement. “The collusion between the former mayor, fellow council members, and the Angels is appalling and further shows the need for real reform.”

Ament pleaded guilty last year to federal charges of wire fraud, making a false statement to a financial institution and subscribing to a false tax return. He cooperated with federal authorities investigating Sidhu, and has not yet been sentenced.

Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said, “It is important to note … the plea agreement along with the city’s investigation showed no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Angels organization.”

Former City Councilman Jose Moreno, who opposed the stadium deal, said, “I’ve said this many times over the years, but sometimes you hate to be wrong because it really does hurt our city and its residents who work every day for their families and expect a government that is more honest.”

Moreno said he always found the deal to have been too choreographed and it raised his suspicions.

“After these last couple of years Angels executives say they had no idea this was happening and weren’t participating,” Moreno said.

But the plea deal shows, “They were participating and were aware and had information and should have reported to the city they were getting confidential information,” Moreno said. “They’re liable for that not having been reported.”

At best, they had an agent “who went rogue” in negotiations and they were ignorant, or “at worst they were very conscious they were receiving information illegally… and using it to rehearse, to manipulate and obfuscate the value of the land,” Moreno said.

“I hope the mayor and city council will call for the city attorney to investigate that and to review and nullify the statement of this sweetheart deal,” Moreno said.

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