iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
The former mayor of Anaheim has confessed to federal charges of corruption and agreed to plead guilty to obstructing an FBI public corruption investigation by destroying evidence and making false statements to FBI agents, the Justice Department announced on August 16, 2023.
Harish “Harry” Singh Sidhu, 66, of Anaheim, according to court documents filed in the United States District Court, has also admitted to cheating California tax authorities and making false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration in relation to his purchase of a helicopter.
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal information charging Sidhu with one count of obstruction of justice, one count of wire fraud, and two counts of making false statements to the FBI and the FAA. In a plea agreement also filed on August 16, Sidhu agreed to plead guilty to the four offenses. Sidhu is expected to make his initial appearance in the United States District Court in Santa Ana later this month. Assistant United States Attorneys Charles E. Pell and Melissa S. Rabbani of the Santa Ana Branch Office are prosecuting this case.
Once Sidhu enters his guilty pleas, he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for the obstruction of justice count, up to 20 years in federal prison for the wire fraud count, and up to five years in federal prison for each false statements count.
“While serving as Anaheim’s mayor, Mr. Sidhu took a series of actions that compromised the city’s negotiating position by providing confidential information and secretly working to influence the city’s decision-making process – all of which had a detrimental effect on the city and its residents,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Joseph T. McNally. “Public confidence in the integrity of public officials is critical to our society. This office will continue to root out public officials who compromise their integrity.”
According to his plea agreement, Sidhu – a longtime member of the Anaheim City Council who was elected mayor in 2018 – admitted that while the City of Anaheim was negotiating the sale of Angel Stadium to the Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball club, he sought out and became a member of the city’s negotiating team for the stadium sale. While on the negotiating team, Sidhu provided confidential information belonging to the city to people working for the Angels, so that the Angels could buy Angel Stadium on favorable terms for the baseball club. After secretly providing the information, he had received in his position as mayor, Sidhu later was recorded saying he expected a $1 million campaign contribution from the Angels after the baseball club purchased Angel Stadium, his plea agreement states.
“Mr. Sidhu was elected by and pledged to work for the residents of Anaheim, but he violated that pledge and their trust on numerous occasions to look out for special interests,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Mr. Sidhu deceived his colleagues and weakened the city’s official strategy by divulging intellectual property, then lied to the government when his corruption was discovered. I’m proud of the hard work put in by agents and prosecutors which resulted in today’s plea agreement.”
Sidhu admitted that he knowingly destroyed evidence by deleting multiple email messages and documents with the intent to impede and obstruct the FBI’s investigation of public corruption related to the city’s attempted sale of Angel Stadium. In the plea agreement, Sidhu specifically admitted he deleted an email message he had sent on July 21, 2020, with an attachment drafted by lawyers for the city, which contained confidential negotiation information related to the potential sale of Angel Stadium, including a discussion of issues related to price.
“The public places a lot of trust and confidence in elected officials, which Mr. Sidhu violated,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we were able to prevent Mr. Sidhu from causing greater harm to the Anaheim community.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, said in a press release: Sidhu also admitted in his plea agreement that he deleted a September 2020 email message about secret mock Anaheim City Council meetings involving Sidhu, two other City Council members and representatives of the Angels – including the team president and a team lawyer. Those mock City Council meetings would precede the scheduled public City Council meeting about the city’s proposed sale of Angel Stadium. The deleted email message had an attachment titled “Angels Council Debate Prep,” which detailed the topics on which each participant of the mock City Council meetings should focus, and it added “[Angels] team available to help develop ‘zingers’, responses, and other points to improve performance.”
Sidhu also confessed that he had provided a confidential appraisal range to the Angels in 2019, months before the appraisal was made public.
During the investigation, FBI agents secretly recorded multiple statements by Sidhu about the $1 million campaign contribution that he expected to receive after the City of Anaheim sold Angel Stadium to the Angels, the plea agreement states.
Sidhu admitted that he lied about the Angel Stadium sale negotiations and related matters when FBI agents interviewed him on May 12, 2022. For example, during that interview, Sidhu falsely stated that he was expecting “nothing” from the Angels after the Angel Stadium sale when in truth, he was expecting to receive a $1 million campaign contribution for his election after the sale. Sidhu also admitted to lying about using his personal email for city business. “Not only did [Sidhu] conduct City business using his personal email, but he also communicated with some City staff using that staff’s personal email, purposely avoiding using the staff member’s official City email address,” the plea agreement states.
In his plea agreement, Sidhu also admitted that in late 2020, he tried to defraud the State of California of approximately $16,000 in sales tax revenue by using an Arizona address to register a helicopter he had just purchased, even though he lived in Anaheim. Sidhu admitted that he fraudulently used a mailing address in Scottsdale, Arizona that actually belonged to an Anaheim businessperson. The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation are conducting an ongoing investigation into this matter. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations – Riverside Air Unit, assisted the investigation of Sidhu’s helicopter tax fraud.
Sidhu also admitted that he provided false information about the helicopter to the Federal Aviation Administration when he submitted an “Aircraft Registration Application” that he signed and certified as true, but which falsely claimed his permanent mailing address was in Arizona.