Ben Arredondo Pleads Guilty to Two Felonies; Plea Reveals Soon-to-Be-Former Legislator Also Ran a Bit of a Scholarship Scam
|Convicted state lawmaker Ben Arredondo.|
Arredondo pleaded guilty to one count of "honest services mail fraud" -- related to the ticket-bribery exchange he had going on with undercover FBI agents -- but also pleaded guilty to another count of mail fraud for setting up a scholarship fund that sent a bunch of money to his own relatives.
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As part of the plea agreement for Arredondo -- a Republican-turned-Democrat who served on the Tempe City Council for 16 years before making it into the state House of Representatives in 2010 -- he will be resigning from the Legislature.
According to the plea agreement, Arredondo admits that he ran a scholarship fund, telling prospective donors to the fund that the fund would help pay for college fees and textbooks for "average" students, and was supposed to go to youngsters whose parents hadn't saved up a college fund.
It turns out, the "Arredondo Scholarship Fund" was literally the Arredondo scholarship fund -- seven of his relatives received funds for their college expenses.
For example, the plea notes that from 2003 to 2011, the fund paid $81,200 to Arizona State University. Of that, $39,250 was used on six of Arredondo's relatives, and the remaining $49,150 went toward the fees of 20 people not related to Arredondo.
Arredondo never told donors that part of the fund would help out Arredondo's own relatives, and the plea notes that major airlines were among the contributors, and would donate airline tickets to the fund.
A letter written to ASU on behalf of the fund said that the students weren't direct relatives of the fund's administrators, and that same letter noted that Arredondo was one of the administrators.
The other felony charge is based on what's been known since the indictment was made public. Arredondo was taking sporting-event tickets from a company -- a fake company, set up by the FBI -- in exchange for helping it buy city-owned land for a real estate development.
The indictment against Arredondo claimed he had set up meetings between undercover FBI agents and other public officials, tried to get them a favorable position in the bidding process, and tried to get his colleagues at the city to help approve this acquisition by the FBI's fake company.
Arredondo scored about $6,000 in tickets to sporting events and tables at charity events, thanks to the FBI's undercover agents.
His sentencing is scheduled for late January.