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Home / Neighborhood / Orange County / Former Anaheim mayor pleads guilty in corruption scandal

Former Anaheim mayor pleads guilty in corruption scandal

by City News Service
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By Paul Anderson

As expected, former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu pleaded guilty Friday 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.

Sentencing was scheduled for June 14. Based on his plea deal, Sidhu faces eight to 14 months in prison, but there could be a number of factors that affect that down the road as probation officials prepare a pre-sentencing report.

“Former Mayor Sidhu appreciates the thorough investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office leading to this fair settlement,” Sidhu’s attorney, Paul Meyer, said after the hearing. “He deeply regrets these violations.”

Sidhu did not take any questions as a couple of critics shouted at him after the hearing with one saying, “I’m glad you’re going to jail.”

The former mayor politely responded to every question from U.S. District Judge John Holcomb often replying “yes, sir,” when asked if he understood the terms of the agreement and the rights he would be giving up.

When asked to say what he understood his crimes were he said, “I have destroyed emails from my personal account… I have registered the helicopter in Arizona to avoid sales taxes… I did lie to the FBI.”

Sidhu, 66, pleaded guilty to using his position as mayor to funnel inside information from the city to then-Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament and a consultant for the Angels, using personal email instead of official city accounts to orchestrate mock city council meetings on the stadium sale in 2020, and lying to FBI investigators when they confronted him about the corruption. He also used a friend’s address in Scottsdale, Arizona, to avoid paying $15,887 in sales taxes on a used helicopter he bought for himself in California that was parked in a hangar in Chino.

Sidhu has already paid that money back. According to his plea deal, prosecutors will seek a lesser punishment for the former mayor because he pleaded guilty right away, resigned as mayor when the corruption scandal became public and paid back the taxes he owed.

“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 when a plea deal with the former mayor was announced Aug. 16.

“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 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.

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

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 been sentenced.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell said the “investigation was ongoing” when asked if prosecutors expected any more defendants in the case.

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