‘Cabal’ ringleader pleads guilty in Anaheim corruption case

Todd Ament, the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, has agreed to a plea deal in connection with a wide-ranging political corruption scandal in Orange County.

Ament will plead guilty to filing a false tax return, lying to a mortgage lender, and two counts of wire fraud, according to a filing Thursday in US District Court in Santa Ana.

The agreement requires Ament to cooperate fully with the government — including testifying before grand juries and at trials — and to pay nearly $250,000 in back taxes.

Ament’s attorney, Salvatore Ciulla, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ament was charged last month with lying to a mortgage lender about the purchase of a $1.5 million home in Big Bear. The 99-page affidavit supporting the complaint contained a variety of other allegations, including his involvement with a self-proclaimed “cabal” that ran Anaheim’s government.

The affidavit described Ament and an unnamed political adviser – details agree with Jeff Flint, chief executive and senior partner at FSB Public Affairs – as “the leaders of a small group of individuals who met in person to discuss strategy regarding various Discuss matters within Anaheim — matters that have often been pending before the Anaheim City Council, or would soon be pending before the Anaheim City Council.”

The affidavit also referred to Company A employee — Disneyland Resort Director of External Affairs Carrie Nocella — as one of the ringleaders “to a degree,” according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The first indictment against Ament came a day after a federal search warrant affidavit against Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu was released. In that affidavit, the mayor was accused of leaking confidential information to the Angels during the team’s negotiations with the city over the $320 million sale of Angel Stadium in hopes of raising a million-dollar campaign donation and for obstructing an Orange County grand jury investigation into the deal.

Sidhu resigned after the affidavit was released and the city council scuttled the stadium sale. The former mayor has not been charged and his attorney, Paul Meyer, has denied any wrongdoing by his client.

In the plea agreement, Ament admits to “making up and participating in” an unnamed $225,000 cannabis venture, arguing that the money would be used by the Chamber of Commerce to set up a task force and contact the city to do so to use, to permit cannabis to be sold.

The agreement outlined another conspiracy in which Ament received $61,000 from the Small Business Administration “falsely claiming he would use the proceeds as working capital to help alleviate the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” . The money went to an Ament-controlled company, TA Consulting, which the government said had “no significant operations or employees”. Ament spent the proceeds on personal expenses at “suit stores, clothing stores, and boat dealers.”

In addition, according to the plea, Ament filed false tax returns in 2017, 2018, and 2019 that understated his income.

Guidelines for crimes charged at this level provide for 37 to 46 months in federal prison. The agreement states that the government will recommend that Ament be sentenced to “no higher than the lower end” of the guidelines.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-09/anaheim-disney-angels-fbi-investigation-chamber-todd-ament ‘Cabal’ ringleader pleads guilty in Anaheim corruption case

Alley Einstein

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