Former director of O.C. Democratic Party pleads guilty to attempted wire fraud

Melahat Rafiei, left, and a colleague on the O.C. Fair Board, raise the Pan African flag to honor Black History Month
Melahat Rafiei, left, and a colleague on the O.C. Fair Board raise the Pan African flag to honor Black History Month at the fair and event center in Costa Mesa in February.
(James Carbone)
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A former top official of the Democratic Party of Orange County pleaded guilty Friday to charges of attempting to defraud one of her political consultancy firm’s clients, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Melahat Rafiei, 45, was expected to do so after signing a plea agreement in January, though it is unclear how the plea will affect her sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 13.

Rafiei faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

Neither Rafiei nor her attorney, Alaleh Kamran, could be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon.


Rafiei was previously a state representative for the Democratic National Committee and secretary for the California Democratic Party, in addition to being on the OC Fair Board — all positions that she stepped down from in May of last year in the fallout of a corruption investigation surrounding the proposed sale of Angel Stadium land in Anaheim, where she was accused of being complicit in the corruption.

Rafiei did not plead to any bribery charges, though federal prosecutors acknowledged and outlined a bribery scheme in Irvine in her plea agreement.

According to the agreement, between September and October 2019, Rafiei falsely represented to a client that she would work on a cannabis-related ordinance in Anaheim specifically tailored to the client’s business for a payment of at least $300,000, though she was already working on such an ordinance for other clients.

She is then alleged to have falsely stated that she would keep only $10,000 of the payment but instead intended to keep $100,000 of it.

Prosecutors also said she falsely stated that $200,000 of the $300,000 would go to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, but she intended to split the $200,000 between herself and an unrelated associate. Payments were to be made by checks to various entities, and prosecutors said Rafiei intended to deposit the money into accounts she controlled and transmit a portion of the funds to others.

Rafiei agreed to plead guilty to the count of wire fraud, but that charge is unrelated to the Anaheim probe, which she is reported to have assisted with after her arrest in 2019.

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