Rep. Ben Arredondo resigned from the House today after pleading guilty in a federal court Friday to two felony counts of fraud.
The charges stemmed from an undercover FBI investigation that turned up proof that the Tempe Democrat – who was first elected to the house in 2010 and had previously served 16 years on the Tempe City Council and two years the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors – had been peddling his influence in exchange for gifts.
Arredondo handed in his letter of resignation this morning.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the people of Legislative District 17 and to work with my colleagues and the legislative staff,” he said in his resignation letter. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my community.”
Arredondo plead guilty to two charges stemming from the FBI investigation that ran from February 2009 to November 2010, according to his indictment.
Arredondo is scheduled to be sentenced on January 22, and faces the possibility of probation or up to 37 months in prison. He has also been ordered to repay $49,750 in restitution.
The first charge was for taking bribes in exchange for using his influence to secure land deals for a fake company that was actually set up by the FBI.
Arredondo received a host of gifts, including tickets to college and professional sporting events and tables at charity events in exchange for using his position on the Tempe City Council to influence other councilmembers and City of Tempe offices, including the Economic Development Department, to set up a favorable real estate deal for the fake company.
According to the plea deal Arredondo received four tickets to an American League Championship Series game between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels in October 2009; two tickets to an Arizona Cardinals game in September 2009; 18 tickets to various Arizona Diamondback baseball games in 2010; and two tickets to a Duke – Michigan State basketball game in November 2010. He also received tables at charity events in February and March 2009, with the understanding that he could invite whoever he wanted.
He also offered the undercover agents confidential information about how to secure city-owned land.
Following his election to the state House, Arredondo told the undercover FBI agents that he would continue to support the fictitious company’s plans from his new post.
“You guys will ask, you guys will have,” he said, according to the plea agreement. “I don’t know how else to say it. We’ll be fine because not only we’re covered at the city, we’re covered now at the state.”
The second charge that Arredondo plead guilty to was mail fraud related to his Arredondo Scholarship Fund.
The fund raised money, goods and services from donors in order to pay for college fees and books for “average students” but a large chunk of the money went to members of his family.
According to the plea deal, the Arredondo Scholarship Fund paid almost $50,000 on behalf of seven of Arredondo’s relatives to three different educational institutions in Arizona. The fund also sent a letter to Arizona State University assuring the school that the recipients of the scholarship fund money were not children or relatives of the fund’s administrators.
That charge was not part of the original five-count indictment, and only became public in court last week. The other four counts from the indictment were dropped.