Powerful Democrat and ‘Great Friend’ of Obama Indicted on Corruption Charges
Mark Ridley-Thomas indicted on federal corruption charges
One of California's most powerful Democratic politicians, Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, has been indicted on federal corruption charges of mail and wire fraud, conspiring with a USC dean, and taking bribes that benefited himself and his son, Sebastian.
The 20-count indictment alleges that Ridley-Thomas conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn, who provided Ridley-Thomas’ relative with graduate school admission, a paid professorship, a full-tuition scholarship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds via the university to a nonprofit.
The Daily News reported:
“In exchange, the 35-page indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported contracts involving the School of Social Work, including contracts to provide services to the county Department of Children and Family Services and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.”
“The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were facilitated by a major university’s high-ranking administrator whose desire for funding apparently trumped notions of integrity and fair play,” said acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison.
“Public corruption cases are among the most important matters we pursue, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute whenever public officials and others entrusted with taxpayer funds break the law.”
Flynn was dean for 21 years when USC’s social work program became the largest in the world.
BREAKING: The 35-pg, 20-count Federal Grand Jury Indictment against Mark Ridley-Thomas and University of Southern California School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Louise Flynn alleges Conspiracy, Bribery Concerning Programs, Receiving Federal Funds and Honest Services & Mail Fraud pic.twitter.com/ux1D0TF5af— Andrew Blankstein (@anblanx) October 14, 2021
In 2018, she was “removed” from her position, the indictment said.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, 34, is referred to in the indictment as “MRT Relative 1.”
The alleged crimes occurred in 2017 and 2018 when Ridley-Thomas was a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
He was termed out in 2020 and elected to L.A. City Council in November.
Ridley-Thomas is one of three council members to face federal corruption charges in the last two years.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the allegations demonstrate “why a Public Corruption Unit must exist outside of the influence” of the five-member board.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
In a statement, a USC spokesperson said university officials have been cooperating with federal investigators since the summer of 2018, when they learned of the $100,000 payment Ridley-Thomas and Flynn allegedly orchestrated. Flynn stopped working for the university in September of that year, the statement said.
The indictment comes three years after The Times revealed that USC had provided a scholarship to Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and appointed him as a professor around the time that his father, while serving as a county supervisor, had funneled campaign money through the university that ended up in a nonprofit group run by his son.
The Times reported that USC alerted federal prosecutors to the unusual arrangement after an internal investigation. It also described the intense budget pressure Flynn was under at the time of the alleged scheme with Mark Ridley-Thomas in large part because of her embrace of online degree programs.
Mark-Ridley-Thomas is also described as a “great friend” by former President Barack Obama during a campaign rally in L.A. in 2008.
I met John P Crossley, Jr—a top notch theological ethicist—in June of 1980. He was one of my best professors in the PhD program in Social Ethics. Monday we had a chance encounter and I gave him a shout out from the podium @USCEmeriti 40th Anniversary event. pic.twitter.com/9O7tAfyU98— Mark Ridley-Thomas (@mridleythomas) December 13, 2018