Former County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges
October 14, 2021
Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted Wednesday on federal corruption charges alleging a bribery scheme in which his relative received substantial benefits from USC in exchange for the politician's support of contracts while he served on the county Board of Supervisors.
The 20-count indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court alleges that Ridley-Thomas conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn, an ex-dean of USC's School of Social Work, to provide Ridley-Thomas' relative with graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a nonprofit to be operated by the family member.
In exchange, the 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.
Ridley-Thomas, 66, of Los Angeles, and Flynn, 83, of Los Angeles, were informed of the indictment Wednesday afternoon and have agreed to appear for their arraignments in Los Angeles federal court in the coming weeks, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Both Ridley-Thomas and Flynn are charged with conspiracy and bribery. The indictment also charges both defendants with two counts of "honest services" mail fraud and 15 counts of "honest services" wire fraud.
The indictment did not name the relative, however, Ridley-Thomas' son, Sebastian, resigned from the Assembly in 2017 amid investigations into sexual harassment complaints. He insisted at the time that his resignation was due to health reasons, not a sexual harassment probe. Sebastian Ridley-Thomas later became a professor of social work and public policy at USC, although he was later terminated over questions about his original appointment.
As part of the bribery scheme, Ridley-Thomas and Flynn allegedly took steps "to disguise, conceal, and cover up the bribes, kickbacks and other benefits" Ridley-Thomas and his relative received -- which included concealing the official acts Ridley-Thomas agreed to perform in exchange for the financial benefits, according to the document.
The pair also concealed, according to the indictment, the true purpose of the money funneled to the relative's nonprofit through the university, which also violated multiple university policies regarding the funding of nonprofits, prosecutors said.
The conspiracy count alleged in the indictment carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison. Each bribery count carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years. Each of the mail fraud and wire fraud charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years, said federal prosecutors.