Ex-Anaheim mayor to plead guilty in federal corruption case over Angel Stadium sale

Aug 16, 2023, 5:49 PM

FILE - Fans line up outside Angel Stadium of Anaheim for an opening day baseball game between the L...

FILE - Fans line up outside Angel Stadium of Anaheim for an opening day baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago Cubs in Anaheim, Calif., on April 4, 2016. Harish Singh Sidhu, the former mayor of the Southern California city of Anaheim has agreed to plead guilty to obstructing an FBI corruption investigation into the $150 million sale of Angel Stadium to the owner of the Major League Baseball team, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The former mayor of the Southern California city of Anaheim agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to obstructing an FBI corruption investigation into the $150 million sale of Angel Stadium to the owner of the Major League Baseball team, federal prosecutors announced.

Harish “Harry” Singh Sidhu acknowledged in a plea agreement that he provided confidential city information to people working for the Angels while serving on the city’s negotiating team for the deal, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. The information was intended to help the team buy the stadium under favorable terms.

“Sidhu later was recorded saying he expected a $1 million campaign contribution from the Angels after the baseball club purchased Angel Stadium,” the statement said.

The charges to which Sidhu will plead guilty — including obstruction of justice, wire fraud and lying to authorities — carry a combined maximum possible penalty of 40 years in federal prison.

Sidhu “appreciates the thorough and fair investigation by the United States attorney’s office leading to a resolution in this matter,” his attorney, Paul S. Meyer, said in a statement.

Marie Garvey, spokesperson for the Angels, said in a statement Wednesday that “it is important to note both the plea agreement along with the city’s investigation showed no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Angels organization.”

Sidhu, 66, resigned as mayor last year after word broke that he was under federal investigation. The day that he resigned, the City Council voted to void a 2020 agreement to sell the city-owned ballpark and 151 acres (61 hectares) to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno and his business partnership for development.

Under that deal, Moreno would have paid $325 million but would only pay about $150 million in cash while his company would receive a $170 credit for including some 500 units of affordable housing and a park in the redeveloped land surrounding the stadium.

In return, the team would have committed to stay in Anaheim through 2050.

After the deal collapsed, Moreno and the Angels began exploring a possible sale of the team — which outraged fans in the Orange County city of 345,000 — but announced in January that a sale was off the table.

“We realized our hearts remain with the Angels, and we are not ready to part ways with the fans, players, and our employees,” Moreno said in a statement at the time.

Sidhu had denied wrongdoing, saying his negotiations were lawful and in the city’s best interests. But in his plea agreement, prosecutors said he acknowledged deleting emails and documents related to the sale and lying to FBI agents about the negotiations.

Sidhu also admitted “cheating California tax authorities and making false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration in relation to his purchase of a helicopter,” the U.S. attorney’s office statement said.

Sidhu will plead guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, one count of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to the FBI and the FAA. No sentencing date was announced.

“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, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

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Ex-Anaheim mayor to plead guilty in federal corruption case over Angel Stadium sale