‘Cabal’ leader pleads guilty in Anaheim bribery case
Todd Ament, the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, has accepted a plea bargain amid a sweeping political corruption scandal in Orange County.
According to a filing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Ament will plead guilty to submitting a false tax return, lying to a mortgage lender and two counts of wire fraud.
The deal requires Ament to cooperate fully with the government — including testifying before grand juries and at trials — and pay nearly $250,000 in back taxes.
Ament’s attorney, Salvatore Ciulla, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ament was accused last month of lying to a mortgage lender when buying a $1.5 million home in Big Bear. The 99-page affidavit in support of the complaint contained a host of other allegations, including his participation in a self-proclaimed “cabal” that ran the government of Anaheim.
The affidavit described Ament and an unnamed political consultant — details match Jeff Flint, managing director and senior associate at FSB Public Affairs — as “the leaders of a small group of people who met face-to-face to discuss the strategy surrounding several issues in Anaheim – issues that were often pending, or soon to be pending, before the Anaheim City Council.
The affidavit also referred to Company A’s employee — Disneyland Resort’s external affairs director Carrie Nocella, according to a person familiar with the investigation — as one of the ringleaders “to some extent.”
The initial charge against Ament came a day after a federal search warrant affidavit targeting Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu was made public. The affidavit accused the mayor of leaking confidential information to the Angels during the team’s negotiations with the city over the $320 million sale of Angel Stadium in hopes of receiving a $1 million campaign donation. dollars and obstruct an Orange County grand jury investigation into the deal.
Sidhu resigned after the affidavit was released, and the city council scuttled the sale of the stadium. The former mayor has not been charged and his attorney, Paul Meyer, has denied any wrongdoing by his client.
In the plea deal, Ament admits to having “conceived and participated in a scheme to defraud” an anonymous cannabis company of $225,000 by representing the money would be used by the Chamber of Commerce to create a task force and lobby on the town to allow cannabis to be sold.
The deal described another plot in which Ament received $61,000 from the Small Business Administration “falsely stating that it would use the proceeds as working capital to mitigate economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic” in 2020. The money went to an Ament-controlled company, TA Consulting, which the government said had “no significant operations or employees”. Ament spent proceeds from personal expenses on “costume stores, retail clothing stores, and retail boat dealers.”
Additionally, according to the plea bargain, Ament filed false tax returns in 2017, 2018, and 2019 that underreported his earnings.
Guidelines for offenses charged at this level call for 37 to 46 months in federal prison. The agreement notes that the government will recommend that Ament be sentenced to “no more than the bottom rung” of the guidelines.