Watch CBS News

Ref Rodriguez Pleads Guilty To Reimbursing Campaign Donors, Resigns From LAUSD Board

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles Unified School District board member Ref Rodriguez resigned Monday after pleading guilty to a felony conspiracy charge and four misdemeanors for reimbursing donors to his 2015 election campaign.

Under the plea agreement with prosecutors, Rodriguez will be put on three years probation and requires him to serve 60 days of community service. He is also expected to reach a settlement with the city Ethics commission, admitting that he carried out a money-laundering scheme by reimbursing 25 people who donated money to his campaign.

"I am sorry for the mistakes I have made," Rodriguez said in a statement.

According to prosecutors, Rodriguez raised more than $50,000 during a campaign reporting period that ended in December 2014 and 25 donors – most of whom were family members and friends – were allegedly paid back $24,250 by Rodriguez and his cousin, Elizabeth Melendrez.

The donors' names had been listed on a campaign finance report that was signed by Rodriguez under the penalty of perjury and submitted to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. Rodriguez would have been allowed by law to donate the money to his own campaign directly, but the scheme could have been an effort to make his financial support from donors look stronger than it really was.

According to Ethics Commission documents, shortly after Rodriguez began his campaign for the school board seat in November 2014, he "provided $26,000 of his own money to Melendrez, his cousin and a key campaign volunteer, with instructions to funnel that money into his campaign account by asking family members to make contributions."

ref rodriguez
Ref Rodriguez during his court appearance Monday (credit: CBS)

Melendrez pleaded guilty Monday to four misdemeanor counts of assumed-name contributions and was also sentenced to three years probation and 60 days community service.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge and four misdemeanor counts of assumed-name contributions. He also resigned from the LAUSD board.

"Today, I resign from the L.A. Unified Board to resume my role as a private citizen and community advocate. Thank you to the parents, students, community members, my staff and everyone who has given me their unwavering support. I am sorry for the mistakes I have made. I wish all of my colleagues the best as they continue this critical work."

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.