LA Councilman ‘exchanged lucrative county contracts to get his son into USC graduate program’

A Los Angeles Councilman and former University of Southern California dean face conspiracy and bribery charges after allegedly scheming to get the politician’s son into graduate school. 

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, and former Social Work Dean Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, were cited in a 20-count indictment released by the US Attorney for the Central District of California on Wednesday. 

The indictment alleges that the politician, who was serving on the LA County Board of Supervisors at the time, exchanged county contracts in exchange for getting a relative admission into USC’s graduate school.

The relative was named as Ridley-Thomas’ son Sebastian, 34, by the LA Times.

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was a Member of the California State Assembly from the 54th district from 2013 until 2017, when he resigned citing ill health. He was facing sexual harassments allegations, where he allegedly kissed a woman and repeatedly contacted her. He denied any wrongdoing.

An outside investigation found that Sebastian ‘more likely than no’ did harass the woman and another staffer. 

California’s Release of Sexual Harassment Records stated: ‘[Sebastian] made a sexual advance on a staff member he asked to dinner and tried to kiss. Repeatedly winked at another staff member and held her hand in a way that made her uncomfortable.’

Authorities say the Mark Ridley-Thomas and Flynn traded ‘supporting county contracts and lucrative contract amendments with the university’ between 2017 and 2018 in exchange for Sebastian receiving benefits and a teaching job at the university.

In exchange for the contracts, Sebastian would receive ‘graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a non-profit’, the indictment claims. 

Sebastian was later fired from his position at USC in September 2018 after questions were raised about his appointment and a $100,000 donation his father made to the school, the Times reports.

Ridley-Thomas exchanged county contracts to get his son Sebastian (above) into the school's grad school following sexual harassments claims

Los Angeles Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, (left) and former University of Southern California Social Work Dean Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, were cited in a 20-count indictment for conspiracy and bribery in an agreement to get his son Sebastian (right) into the school’s graduate program 

The school's Social Work Department was facing a 'multimillion-dollar budget deficit' that allegedly threatened 'Flynn's position and reputation.' (Pictured: Flynn)

The school’s Social Work Department was facing a ‘multimillion-dollar budget deficit’ that allegedly threatened ‘Flynn’s position and reputation.’ (Pictured: Flynn) 

Mark Ridley-Thomas ‘allegedly wanted to help secure paid employment for his relative to minimize any public fallout’ after his resignation, according to prosecutors. 

The School of Social Work was allegedly facing a ‘multimillion-dollar budget deficit’ which threaten ‘Flynn’s position and reputation.’

The indictment stated the university’s Social Work Department received ‘contracts to provide services to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Probation Department,’ and to the ‘Department of Mental Health (DMH) that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.’

The indictment also states that the ‘seasoned lawmaker’ abused the public’s trust by ‘taking official actions to benefit his family member and himself.’ 

It alleges that the defendants took actions ‘to disguise, conceal, and cover up the bribes, kickbacks, and other benefits’ that Ridley-Thomas and his son were receiving.

The pair now face charges for conspiracy, bribery, and mail and wire fraud and could face decades in prison

The pair now face charges for conspiracy, bribery, and mail and wire fraud and could face decades in prison

‘The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were facilitated by a major university’s high-ranking administrator whose desire for funding apparently trumped notions of integrity and fair play,’ acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement. 

Ridley-Thomas and Flynn will face an arraignment hearing in the coming weeks in a US District Court. 

They both face one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery, two counts of ‘honest services’ mail fraud and 15 counts of ‘honest services’ wire fraud. 

They can face up to five years for conspiracy, 10 years for bribery, and each fraud charge could carry up to 20 years each in prison. 

‘This investigation should send a message to public officials that government contracts are not for sale,’ Kristi K. Johnson, the FBI’s LA Field Office’s assistant direction told KTLA 5. 

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