State lawmaker indicted on bribery and fraud charges

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by Mike Gertzman

azfamily.com

Posted on May 16, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:18 AM

PHOENIX -- Rep. Ben Arredondo of Tempe has been charged with bribery, fraud, attempted extortion and false statements following an FBI sting that ran from February 2009 to July 2010.

According to a federal grand jury indictment, Arredondo took more than $6,000 in tickets to sporting and special events while serving as a councilmember in Tempe and a member-elect of the Arizona House of Representatives.

The indictment charges Arredondo, 63, of Tempe, with one count of federal programs bribery, two counts of honest services mail fraud, one count of attempted Hobbs Act extortion and one count of making false statements.

Now one of his colleagues is calling on him to step down.

"I think Representative Arredondo will have other commitments when it comes to dealing with this investigation and I hope he'll resign so we can focus on what's needed at the state capitol," said Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, who also represents Tempe.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell did not go as far as Schapira, and instead said in a statement "Mr. Arredondo should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Arredondo was a councilmember in Tempe for 16 years, until July 2010. He was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in November 2010.

The indictment alleges that from February 2009 to November 2010, Arredondo accepted, agreed to accept and solicited things of value from representatives of a company who said they wanted to buy city-owned property in Tempe for real estate development purposes.

The representatives were, in fact, undercover agents with the FBI.

According to the indictment, the undercover agents gave Arredondo more than $6,000 worth of tickets to sporting and other special events.

Those tickets included 18 tickets for Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games valued at a total of approximately $2,400, and four tickets to an American League Championship Series baseball game valued at a total of approximately $1,225.

The indictment claims that Arredondo agreed to take action as a councilmember and as a state lawmaker to facilitate the undercover agents’ purported purchase of city-owned property.

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.

The indictment also states that Arredondo lied to the FBI about his conduct during an interview in January 2012.

The federal programs bribery charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Each count of honest services mail fraud and attempted extortion carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The false statement charge carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Arredondo will be arraigned on May 30, 2012, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson.

Click here to see the indictment

 

Arredondo did not answer his door on Wednesday, but his attorney Lee Stein released this statement:

"Out of respect for the judicial process, we do not intend to comment in the media on the allegations. Suffice to say, we see the facts very differently from the government, but we will do our talking in court. What we will say though is that Ben Arredondo has dedicated his life to the City of Tempe, Maricopa County and the State of Arizona, having served as a teacher, a football and wrestling coach, a City Councilman, a County Supervisor, and a member of the Arizona House of Representatives. He has done many, many good things over his years of service and these allegations do not change any of that."

 

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