State Representative Ben Arredondo was charged by a grand jury today with bribery, fraud, attempted extortion and false statements -- all for a few thousand dollars worth of tickets to ballgames and charity events.
According to the indictment, 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 -- was getting the tickets from a company in exchange for helping it buy city-owned land for a real estate development.
The problem for Arredondo was that the "company" was run by undercover FBI agents.
"According to the indictment, in return for those tickets, Arredondo took and agreed to take action in his capacity as a Tempe city councilmember and as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives to facilitate the undercover agents' purported purchase of city-owned property and development project," the Justice Department announced. "The indictment alleges that Arredondo brokered meetings between the undercover agents and other public officials, divulged information regarding the city of Tempe's bidding process, and attempted to persuade other city officials to approve the purported development project."
This started in 2009, according to the indictment, when Arredondo had the agents buy tables at charity events a couple of times, and then Arredondo would choose who got to sit at those tables.
Then Arredondo hit up an Arizona Cardinals game, courtesy of the "company"/FBI, followed by four tickets to see the New York Yankees in a playoff game in Los Angeles, then 18 Arizona Diamondbacks tickets, and finally, two tickets to a college basketball game between Duke and Michigan State, the indictment says.
The grand total of the charity tables and the tickets: Around $6,000.
Meanwhile, Arredondo was working with city officials to make the deal happen, at one point saying the company would have "continued support" when he transitioned from the council to the House.
"You guys will ask, you guys will have," Arredondo's quoted as saying. "I don't know how else to say it. We'll be just fine because not only [are we] covered at the city, we're covered now at the state."
Arredondo told the agents he'd reach out to the council members to make sure the deal went through as he went to the House, and didn't disclose the $5,000 worth of tickets or the tables at the charity events.
Arredondo was hit with one count of bribery, two counts of mail fraud (two sets of tickets were mailed to his house), one count of extortion, and one count of giving false statements for allegedly telling FBI agents who knew nothin' about no tickets.
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The maximum penalty would be 75 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Arredondo's arraignment is scheduled for May 30.