A member of the Los Angeles City Council and the former dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California were indicted on Wednesday in connection with a scheme in which the pol allegedly promised to direct lucrative contracts to school if she offered her son a scholarship and a chair.
Council member Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, and Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, are expected to be brought to justice in the coming days on charges of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud and honest services wire fraud. They risk decades in prison if convicted on all counts.
“This indictment accuses a seasoned lawmaker who allegedly abused public trust by taking official action for the benefit of a family member and himself,” said acting U.S. lawyer Tracy L. Wilkison in a statement. “The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were facilitated by a high-ranking administrator of a major university whose desire for funding has apparently supplanted notions of integrity and fair play.”
Prosecutors said that in May 2017, when Ridley-Thomas was a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Directors, he informed Flynn that a relative of his was interested in further education at USC. The parent is not identified in the indictment, but the details correspond to known information about Ridley-Thomas’ son, Sebastian.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, now 34, was a member of the California State Assembly between 2013 and 2017, but resigned amid an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. This investigation concluded in 2019 that he likely made an unwanted sexual advance to a member of the Capitol staff.
A statement from Wilkison’s office suggested that Mark Ridley-Thomas “allegedly wanted to help secure paid employment for his relative in order to minimize the public fallout for both of them following the sudden resignation from office.”
The indictment states that a week after Ridley-Thomas informed Flynn of her son, she emailed a colleague that she “intended[ed] to open all the doors for ‘”the disgraced ex-legislator.
In June 2017, Flynn reportedly told Mark Ridley-Thomas that in return for her efforts to help her son earn a joint masters degree from USC’s School of Social Work and School of Public Policy, she wanted the supervisor helps the university contract with Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services and Probation – as well as a modification of an existing telehealth contract to bolster the budget for the School of Social Work, which authorities said faced a “multi-million dollar” deficit.
The indictment goes on to allege that while Mark Ridley-Thomas ran the contracts through the supervisory board, Flynn arranged for Sebastian Ridley-Thomas to study for a joint masters “without joining the streak. standard course “. To do this, the document says, the dean would have overseen the creation of a “comprehensive online program, which had never existed before for this program.”
This fall, prosecutors said, Mark and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas lobbied for the young man to be given a paid teaching position. After Flynn learned that Mark Ridley-Thomas had convinced another official to support the telehealth contract amendment, she allegedly ordered her son to receive a $ 26,000 scholarship for the spring and summer terms of 2018, as well as a paid teaching position with a salary of $ 50,000 – even if being both a student and a teacher would violate USC policy.
Then, in April 2018, according to the US Attorney’s Office, Flynn “agreed to donate $ 100,000” of Mark Ridley-Thomas campaign funds via the university to an unidentified nonprofit “which will be exploited. by »Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
In a statement Wednesday night, USC said it learned of the $ 100,000 payment in the summer of 2018, reported it to federal prosecutors at the time, and had “fully cooperated” with the investigation since.
“Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the university since September 2018,” said the press release. “We will continue to cooperate with the US attorney’s office and must limit comments as this is an ongoing criminal case.”
Ridley-Thomas, originally from Los Angeles, is one of Southern California’s most powerful and well-known politicians. He got a doctorate. in Social Ethics and Policy Analysis at USC in 1989. He served his fourth non-consecutive term on City Council, where he chaired the Committee on Homelessness and Poverty. He also served two terms on the County Supervisory Board and one term each in the State Assembly and the State Senate.
Wednesday’s indictment is another blow to USC, which has been forced to deal with a series of high-profile scandals in recent years. The university was implicated in the ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ investigation, which led to the arrest of three coaches and a senior sports administrator and forced it to revamp its admissions process for students- athletes.
Earlier this year, USC agreed to an $ 852 million settlement with more than 700 women who accused the longtime college campus gynecologist of sexual abuse. Combined with an earlier settlement of a separate class action lawsuit, USC has agreed to pay more than $ 1 billion for claims against Dr. George Tyndall, who worked at the school for nearly three decades.
With post wires