Former USC dean of social work Marilyn Louise Flynn has agreed to plead guilty in a bribery case connected to suspended Los Angeles City councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Flynn, 83, faces up to 10 years in federal prison, with prosecutors agreeing that she serves the sentence under home confinement and pays a fine of no more than $150,000.
“The former dean of the University of Southern California’s school of social work has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge that she bribed longtime politician Mark Ridley-Thomas by funneling $100,000 he provided from his campaign account through USC to a nonprofit operated by his son to obtain a lucrative county contract,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Ridley-Thomas, who served as an L.A. County supervisor at the time of the alleged incidents, has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery, two counts of honest services mail fraud and 15 counts of honest services wire fraud, according to the Department of Justice.
In her plea, Flynn alleged she bribed Ridley-Thomas in a 2018 scheme where the former supervisor voted in favor of an amendment for a Telehealth contract with the Department of Mental Health.
She went on to allege in the plea that the two used USC school of social work to funnel a $100,000 payment to the United Ways of Southern California organization, that would in turn be sent to an organization led by Ridley-Thomas called the Policy, Research & Practice Initiative (PRPI).
PRPI was allegedly run by Ridley-Thomas’ son and the two allegedly sought funds to support the program after sexual harassment allegations were attached to his son. For this reason, United Ways was used as a facade, as Ridley-Thomas did not believe USC would approve a donation to his organization otherwise, the plea states.
After the payment was processed on May 11, 2018, Flynn alleges that she met with Ridley-Thomas to discuss his vote in favor of the amended Telehealth contract, or the “master contract stuff,” as she said he referred to it.
While the FBI is still investigating the matter, Ridley-Thomas stepped away and was later suspended from his council duties in October of 2021, leaving district 10 without representation for months.
The city council made multiple attempts to temporarily appoint former district 10 councilman Herb Wesson, a decision that was blocked by lawsuits opposing the suspension of Thomas. Wesson officially resigned from his interim role in August.
After Wesson’s resignation, Heather Hutt was voted as the interim council representative for district 10.
Ridley-Thomas never officially resigned from his position and if cleared of charges, may return to the council.
The councilman’s trial will begin November 15.
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