LOS ANGELES – Longtime politician Mark Ridley-Thomas and a former University of Southern California dean were charged on Wednesday with bribes and corruption involving political support for county contracts, prosecutors said .
The charges against Ridley-Thomas, 66, a member of Los Angeles City Council, stem from his tenure on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
He was indicted along with Marilyn Louise Flynn, the former dean of USC’s School of Social Work, with conspiracy, bribery, and mail and electronic fraud, prosecutors said.
20-count indictment alleges Ridley-Thomas backed county contracts with the school worth millions of dollars in return for Flynn’s help to a parent in Ridley-Thomas .
Flynn reportedly agreed to admit the parent to graduate school with a full scholarship and a paid teaching position.
The indictment describes a payment of $ 100,000 to an anonymous sponsor to fund a nonprofit organization that Ridley-Thomas’ relative would run, according to the document.
Ridley-Thomas backed the county’s contracts with the school, including an addendum to a contract with an expected value of $ 9 million, prosecutors said.
“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 Ridley-Thomas City Council press office did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday evening. Federal court files online did not show a lawyer for him.
USC said in a statement that it disclosed issues to federal prosecutors in 2018.
“When the university learned in the summer of 2018 of the payment of $ 100,000 mentioned in the indictment, the university disclosed the matter to the US attorney’s office and has cooperated fully since,” officials said. of USC in a statement.
Flynn has not worked with USC since September 2018, they said. She was appointed dean of the school in 1997 and was dismissed from her post in 2018 before resigning, according to the indictment.
Ridley-Thomas’ relative is not named in the indictment, which indicates the relative was a member of the State Assembly from 2013 as of December 31, 2017.
Ridley-Thomas’ son Sebastian was a member of the State Assembly during those years and announced his resignation in December 2017, citing health reasons.
The indictment says the parent was the subject of an internal sexual harassment investigation and both Ridley-Thomas and the parent knew he should likely resign. Considering the parent would need a new job, Ridley Thomas reportedly contacted Flynn about his graduate studies.
At the time, the university’s school of social work was facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit, according to the indictment.
Ridley-Thomas and Flynn have agreed to appear in federal court in the coming weeks, prosecutors said.
According to the indictment, at one point, Flynn told another university official that the school would get a telehealth contract worth an estimated $ 9 million a year, but that she had to do a “favor” and winked at him.
At one point, Ridley-Thomas wrote to Flynn in an email that “your wish is my command” when she asked about the contract amendment, the indictment reads.
Ridley-Thomas served on the county board from 2008-2020, and in 2020 he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council. He was also a member of the city council from 1991 and served in the state assembly and the state senate.
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez said she was disappointed with the news. “Although the alleged crimes took place while Mr. Ridley-Thomas was on the supervisory board, these charges are serious and the board will need to take appropriate action,” Martinez said.
Ridley-Thomas is the third current or former member of Los Angeles City Council to face federal charges since 2020.
Jose Huizar was accused in 2020 of accepting bribes from developers. He pleaded not guilty.
Former board member Mitchell Englander, who resigned in 2018, was indicted last year in connection with the corruption probe. He lied about taking inappropriate gifts, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in January to 14 months in prison.
USC has also been linked with scandals in recent years.
Longtime former USC gynecologist George Tyndall has been indicted and charged with sexually assaulting patients, and the university has agreed to pay hundreds of women over $ 1.1 billion for settle lawsuits. The US Department of Education discovered that USC had mismanaged reports of abuse.
Two former USC football coaches have pleaded guilty to the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions fraud case, in which wealthy parents paid bribes to enroll their children in schools. leading schools, sometimes with fake sports profiles. A former USC associate athletic director and another former coach have been charged.