Los Angeles city councilman indicted on federal bribery charges

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LOS ANGELES — Longtime politician Mark Ridley-Thomas and a former dean at the University of Southern California were indicted Wednesday on federal bribery and corruption charges that involved political support for county contracts, prosecutors said.

The charges against Ridley-Thomas, 66, a Los Angeles city councilman, stem from his time serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

He was indicted with Marilyn Louise Flynn, the former dean of USC’s school of social work, on conspiracy, bribery and mail and wire fraud, prosecutors said.

The 20-count indictment alleges Ridley-Thomas supported county contracts with the school worth millions of dollars in exchange for Flynn helping Ridley-Thomas’ relative.

Flynn allegedly agreed to admit the relative to the graduate school with a full tuition scholarship and a paid professorship.

The indictment describes a $100,000 payment to an unnamed sponsor to finance a nonprofit organization that Ridley-Thomas’ relative would run, according to the document.

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Ridley-Thomas supported county contracts with the school, including an amendment to a contract worth millions, prosecutors said.

“This indictment charges a seasoned lawmaker who allegedly abused the public’s trust by taking official actions to benefit his family member and himself,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement.

Ridley-Thomas’ City Council press office did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday night. Online federal court records did not show an attorney for him.

USC said in a statement that it disclosed to federal prosecutors in 2018 of a problem.

“When the university learned in the summer of 2018 about the $100,000 payment referenced in the indictment, the university disclosed the issue to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and has fully cooperated ever since,” USC officials said in a statement.

Flynn has not been employed with USC since September 2018, they said.

She was named dean of the school in 1997 and was removed in 2018 before resigning, the indictment said.

Ridley-Thomas’ relative is not named in the indictment, but it says the relative was a member of the state Assembly from 2013 to Dec. 31, 2017.

Ridley-Thomas’ son Sebastian was a state assemblyman during those years and announced his resignation in December 2017, citing health reasons.

The indictment says the relative was the subject of an internal sexual harassment investigation, and Ridley-Thomas and the relative knew he would likely have to step down. Accounting for the reality that the relative would need to new job, Ridley Thomas allegedly contacted Flynn about attending graduate school.

At the time, the university’s social work school faced a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, the indictment says.

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