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He was part of a ‘cabal’ that steered Anaheim City Hall. Now he has agreed to plead guilty

Todd Ament stands at a lectern at a press conference.
Todd Ament, the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, shown at lectern, has agreed to plead guilty in an ongoing Orange County corruption scandal.
(Gabriel San Roman / Los Angeles Times)

Todd Ament, the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, has agreed to a plea bargain in connection with a wide-ranging Orange County political corruption scandal.

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 agreement requires Ament to fully cooperate with the government — including testifying before grand juries and at trials — and pay almost $250,000 in back taxes.

Ament’s attorney, Salvatore Ciulla, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ament was charged last month with lying to a mortgage lender during the purchase of 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-described “cabal” that steered Anaheim’s government.

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The affidavit described Ament and an unnamed political consultant — details match Jeff Flint, chief executive and senior partner at FSB Public Affairs — as “the ring leaders of a small group of individuals who met in person to discuss strategy surrounding several matters within Anaheim — matters that were often pending, or soon to be pending, before the Anaheim City Council.”

Disneyland Resort executive Carrie Nocella is one of the unnamed “ringleaders” of a “cabal” that an FBI affidavit says runs Anaheim, according to a source familiar with the FBI inquiry. She is not accused of wrongdoing.

The affidavit also referenced Company A Employee — Disneyland Resort Director of External Affairs 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. That affidavit accused the mayor of divulging 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 million-dollar campaign donation and obstructing an Orange County grand jury investigation into the deal.

Sidhu resigned following the release of the affidavit and the City Council scuttled the stadium sale. The former mayor has not been charged and his attorney, Paul Meyer, has denied any wrongdoing by his client.

In the plea agreement, Ament admits to having “devised and participated in a scheme to defraud” an unnamed cannabis company of $225,000 by representing the money would be used by the Chamber of Commerce to create a task force and lobby the city to allow cannabis to be sold.

The wide-ranging investigation includes the sale of Angel Stadium and allegations of bribery involving Anaheim’s mayor.

The agreement outlined another plot in which Ament received $61,000 from the Small Business Administration “by falsely representing that he would use the proceeds as working capital to alleviate economic injury caused by the COVID-19 pandemic” in 2020. The money went to an Ament-controlled firm, TA Consulting, that the government said had “no substantial operations or employees.” Ament spent the proceeds on personal expenses at “suit stores, retail clothing stores, and retail boat dealers.”

Additionally, the plea bargain said, Ament filed false tax returns in 2017, 2018 and 2019 that underreported his income.

Guidelines for offenses charged at this level call for 37 to 46 months in federal prison. The agreement notes that the government will recommend Ament be sentenced to “no higher than the low end” of the guidelines.


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