LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The former dean of the USC School of Social Work was arraigned Monday on federal corruption charges in an alleged bribery scheme involving Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Marilyn Flynn, 83, entered a plea of not guilty via Zoom in Los Angeles federal court to charges that she conspired with Ridley-Thomas when he was a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that prosecutor say resulted in the university receiving lucrative county contracts.
Ridley-Thomas purportedly conspired with Flynn to benefit his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, in many facets, including admission to USC, a full-ride tuition and a paid professorship at the university.
The 66-year-old Ridley-Thomas pleaded not guilty to the charges at his own arraignment last week, which came on the same day the L.A. City Council voted to suspend him from his post while the case plays out.
According to the 20-count indictment, Flynn agreed to provide Ridley-Thomas' son with graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship at the university. She also allegedly arranged to funnel a $100,000 donation from Ridley-Thomas' campaign funds through the university to a nonprofit to be operated by his son, former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
In exchange, the indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported county contracts involving the School of Social Work that would bring USC millions of dollars in new revenue.
The donation prompted an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The criminal activities occurred in 2017-18, the indictment alleges. In December 2017, the then 30-year-old Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas abruptly resigned from the California State Legislature. He claimed at the time it was for health reasons, but it was later revealed that he was facing an internal sexual harassment investigation.
He was then almost immediately hired by USC as a professor of social work and public policy, despite not having a graduate degree. However, USC administrators launched an investigation and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was then fired in July of 2018.
Prosecutors allege that as part of the bribery scheme, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Flynn took steps "to disguise, conceal, and cover up the bribes, kickbacks, and other benefits."
Flynn was dean for 21 years. The indictment says USC "removed" her from the position around June 2018.
Both Ridley-Thomas and Flynn are charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery. The indictment also charges both defendants with two counts of "honest services" mail fraud and 15 counts of "honest services" wire fraud.
The conspiracy count alleged in the indictment carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison. Each bribery count carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years. Each of the mail fraud and wire fraud charges carry a maximum of 20 years.
A tentative trial date of Dec. 21 was set. Flynn remains out of custody on $50,000 bail.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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