Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has publicly copped to charges of public corruption that killed the city’s $320 million sale of Angel Stadium.
In a federal courtroom in Santa Ana, the 66-year-old former mayor pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to the FBI and to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Orange County Register reported.
“Yes, I’m guilty,” Sidhu told Judge John W. Holcomb.
The court admission comes more than 15 months after the Anaheim City Council voted to nix a $320 million deal to sell Angel Stadium because of a corruption scandal involving the former mayor that included misconduct and pay-to-play schemes.
The charges against Sidhu outlined in a plea agreement last month include lying to FBI agents about not expecting to receive anything from the stadium deal, despite secret recordings of him saying he hoped to secure a $1 million campaign contribution.
And they include Sidhu destroying an email in which he provided confidential information about city negotiations to a team consultant. Sidhu had for more than a year contended he did nothing wrong.
He now faces more than 50 years in federal prison for his crimes, according to the agreement.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has already agreed that if the court imposes a prison term of no less than 30 months, it would waive its right to appeal the sentence.
“Former Mayor Sidhu appreciates the thorough investigation by the United States Attorneys Office leading to this fair settlement,” Paul Meyer, Sidhu’s attorney, said after Sidhu’s first public appearance in more than a year. “He deeply regrets these violations.”
Angels representatives say the plea agreement “showed no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Angels Organization.”
The agreement came weeks after an independent investigation by the city released details about how Sidhu and his allies had engaged in ”influence peddling” with OC developers, and a “potential criminal conspiracy” involving the alleged shuffling of pandemic recovery funds.
During the city’s talks to sell Angel Stadium to a company owned by Angels owner Arte Moreno, Sidhu sought to join the city’s negotiating team. He then provided “confidential inside information belonging to the city” to former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament.
Amant, who led a self-described “cabal” that influenced Anaheim’s city government, later pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the corruption case.
Sidhu also provided inside information to a consultant working for the Angels, “so that the Angels could buy Angel Stadium on terms beneficial to the Angels,” his plea agreement said.
Moreno and his firm, SRB Management, had planned to redevelop the 150-acre stadium parking lot into offices, shops, hotels, restaurants and more than 5,000 homes.
Melahat Rafiei, a political consultant who was a central witness to the FBI’s Anaheim investigation, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 10 for attempted wire fraud, according to the Register. Rafiei pleaded guilty in April after she had helped the FBI probe Anaheim officials after she was arrested in 2019.
— Dana Bartholomew