Is it all over for Harry Sidhu? Todd Ament wore a wire for the FBI!

Yesterday, Monday, May 16, 2022, was, to honest Anaheim residents, like Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Whitsuntide all rolled into one. We are still pinching ourselves to ensure we’re not dreaming: the FBI has got Mayor Harry Sidhu by the short hairs! It’s hard to see how he comes out of this; in fact, he doesn’t.

Haven’t we been screaming, for years now, at the top of our lungs and tirelessly, like a voice crying out in the wilderness, of the corruption of this Mayor and “HIS” Council Majority? And don’t your average complacent Joes and your complicit shills both look at us like we’re crazy, like we’re GADFLIES? Well, now color us VINDICATED. AGAIN!

I don’t believe our friends at the Register and the Voice quite get across the flavor and gist of the 55-page FBI affidavit, which reads like an Abbot & Costello cameo on Law & Order. Yes, the Stadium Heist is on hold once again, but the big news here for Anaheimers is the undeniable, stunning evidence of our Mayor’s shameless criminality.

I shall try my hand at summarizing the FBI document, although of course you could put the time into reading it yourself. But then again, you don’t have the time. Just read my “vignettes.”

Who are “Political Consultant 1” and “Co-operating Witnesses 1 & 2”?

In standard form, this document only mentions the Chief Miscreant, Mayor Harry Sidhu, by name; other characters are given dull anonymous handles like those above. But close city observers can make variously good guesses as to those characters’ real identities, going by the trails of bread crumbs the FBI leaves us.

“Political Consultant 1” is lobbyist Jeff Flint (right) of FSB Core Strategic, as the FBI writes in a footnote that “Political consultant 1 is a principal partner of a nationally known political and public affairs company,” and it’s mentioned elsewhere that he is the lobbyist for Arte Moreno’s SRB. Flint is also the wonderful guy who brought us Prop 8 in 2008 making it illegal for gays to marry, the guy who killed Sunkist Plaza, and the guy who likes to kick me and Daniel Robbins out of events. Good. He deserves bad things. He’s also connected at the hip, for decades, to Curt Pringle.

The affidavit also features two “co-operating witnesses,” already in legal jeopardy and coerced by the Feds to help with their Stadium-related investigation. They tell us CW1 had been under investigation since 2018 for “violations of federal criminal law to include 18 U.S.C. § 666 (theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.” He or she was arrested in October 2019 and immediately agreed to cooperate. Well, I’ve been told by a very authoritative source that this witness is California Democratic Party Secretary (and cannabis consultant) Melahat Raifei (left.) Way to keep the sleaze bipartisan!

UPDATE 5/19: MELAHAT CONFIRMS that she is CW1, and tries to spin her co-operation as patriotic duty – how CHEEKY! We will have a lot more to say about Melahat in the coming days.

We know exactly who Co-operating Witness 2 is because the FBI forgot to redact his name when Harry addresses him as “Todd” – it is Todd Ament, who ran the Chamber for many years. We suddenly stopped seeing Todd a couple years ago, and there was the rumor he’d left town and it had something to do with the FBI – well that rumor was vague but true! It’s fun to see all the trouble Todd was in, in a footnote at the bottom of page 14:

“The FBI has been investigating [Todd Ament] for violations of federal criminal law to include 18 U.S.C. § 1014 (false statement to a federally insured financial institution), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1346 (honest services fraud), 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (wire fraud), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956, 1957 (money laundering), 18 U.S.C. § 1344 (bank fraud), and fraudulently obtaining a loan under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). Additionally, the IRS has been investigating CW2 for tax-related violations…” [I’m leaving out a lot. They also mention how they don’t trust anything he says so they make sure to corroborate it all.]

[UPDATE: This story is moving so fast – on Tuesday Bonta put out a press release on the charges against Ament, the FBI released a 99-page complaint against him, and he had a Court hearing where he was released on a measly $30K bail.]

We know Harry (and how he still struggles with the English language after 40-something years) and we know Todd, and most of these recorded vignettes feature Harry and Todd, so they are nice and easy to picture in our heads as we read them. Now enjoy and learn:

Vignette 1: Harry plans to demand a bribe from the Angels!

[Page 37] Deep FBI voice: On October 29, 2021, CW2 (Ament) had an in-person meeting with SIDHU, which was surreptitiously recorded at the direction of the FBI. During the recorded conversation, the two discussed several matters, including SIDHU’s plan to solicit campaign contributions from a representative of the Angels organization (“Angels Representative 1” or AR1.) During that portion of their discussion, SIDHU made the following statement:

HS: Yeah. And here’s the thing, if the Angels deal goes through, by the end of the year, then I’m gonna ask ah, [AR1]. Right? I’ll just call them up and say, “Hey, we need, we need at least half a million dollars of support for you to come with the IEs.”

FBI: Then, on December 6, 2021, CW2 once again met with SIDHU in person and conducted a surreptitiously recorded conversation, where SIDHU made the following statement of his intent to solicit campaign funds from AR1:

HS: Because I, I’ve said, you gotta at least, minimum of a million dollars to come up with my election. They have to. And of course, you know, if Disney, I mean, if Angels [LOL, nice Freudian] would conclude next year is approved hopefully, we’ll push for them at least have a million dollars. You know, for AR1 to say “no” is bad, for them not to say no on that.

FBI: “Then on or about January 24, 2022, Ament and SIDHU had a phone conversation. This call was not recorded due to a technical malfunction. Ament advised that during the phone call, SIDHU told him that he intended to revise his request to AR1 for campaign contributions from $500,000 to $1,000,000. SIDHU told Ament, several times during the phone call, that he needed the stadium deal to go through before he could ask AR1 for money.

“Ament opined that SIDHU’s motivation in pushing the stadium sale was solely for the benefit of his reelection campaign. Ament advised that if SIDHU was successful in securing a $1,000,000 commitment from AR1, such a commitment would likely be in the form of Political Action Committee (“PAC”) independent expenditures, examples of which would be mailers and television ads supporting SIDHU and/or attacking his opponents, paid for by AR1.

“At our direction, Ament attempted to follow up on the January 24 phone call. As a result, Ament and SIDHU had a telephone conversation on January 28, 2022, which was successfully recorded. During that recorded telephone call, in addition to SIDHU once again appearing to coach Ament to mislead the OC Grand Jury, [Vern – I’ll get to that later] the following conversation occurred…”

  • Ament: Um, you had mentioned you wanted to try to get AR1 a higher level. Up to the million dollar level. Do you think AR1 go there? Do you have a reason to think AR1 go higher? AR1’s never gone there before.
  • HS: Gone? Gone where?
  • Ament: To, to a million, for re-election. To help with the PACs.
  • HS: At least, you know, you should shoot for 3 million total?
  • Ament: Okay.
  • HS: You should. Because I am hoping to get at least a million from I’m going to be pushing it. AR1 actually asked me. AR1 said, “What can I do for your election?” I said, “Let me finish your deal first, and then we’ll talk about that.”
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: So I’m going to be asking for a million dollars from AR1.

Deep FBI voice: We believe SIDHU illustrated his intent to solicit campaign contributions, in the amount of $1,000,000, from Angels Representative 1, in exchange for performing official acts intended to finalize the stadium sale for the Angels, despite the State of California’s threat to levy a multi-million dollar fine should Anaheim move forward with the deal in its current state.

Are we having fun yet? Are you ready for Vignette #2?

Vignette 2: Harry Obstructs a Grand Jury Investigation,

tampers with a Witness (Ament)

and Destroys Evidence!

*I* didn’t know there was a Grand Jury investigation going on into the Stadium Heist. Did you? No, you didn’t either, those things are confidential. But now we know there was an investigation (partly into his illegally sharing privileged information secretly with the Angels team which is discussed elsewhere in the complaint.) And our favorite Hairball busily plotted with his friends on how to obstruct it. Mira no mas…

[Page 32 on] Deep FBI voice: Ament’s access to SIDHU had waned in the months prior to receiving the OC Grand Jury letter, in part due to investigative actions the FBI took in furtherance of this investigation. [V: Yeah, we all noticed he’d gone AWOL around then.] Upon receiving the OC Grand Jury letter, Ament, at the direction of the FBI, reestablished contact with SIDHU. As a result, Ament and SIDHU met on January 12, 2022 to discuss the OC Grand Jury, among other matters. The FBI provided Ament with a recording device and the meeting was subsequently recorded by Ament. During the meeting, the following conversation between SIDHU and Ament occurred….

  • HS: So, who else got called on, is [Jeff Flint] also got called on the, ah, on [the OC Grand Jury]?
  • Ament: That’s why I’m trying to meet with Jeff tomorrow, because, so, I got, I’m sure the same letter?
  • HS: Yeah.
  • Ament: Yeah, so umm, I haven’t talked to Jeff since the holidays. So we texted last week and said, “Hey we gotta catch up.” And umm, so it actually went to the Chamber and so [Chamber Employee 1, CE1] and I got it. And I said, “Hey tell Jeff I gotta touch base with him on this.” So we’re touching base tomorrow at 2. Ah, [Angels Employee 1, AE1] from the Angels, the old attorney, he’s —
  • HS: [AE1] from the Angels?
  • Ament: Yeah, he wants to meet. Ah, just to catch up, but I said, you know, “Did you get a letter?” I don’t know. I asked him something like that, and he said “Yeah.”
  • HS: So this is the [AE1] that used to be the previous attorney?
  • Ament: Yeah. Right.
  • HS: Because they also got it.
  • Ament: Mine is, I don’t know, obviously somebody, if it’s you, me, Jeff, and Angels, somebody saying ok, what information did they share? And so like I’m worried. I don’t wanna lie.
  • HS: Right.
  • Ament: Because I’m afraid if I lie, and they have something, and then all of a sudden we’re in their crosshairs.
  • HS: Right.
  • Ament: For lying to a grand jury. So like you know, appraisal information, any of that. Is any of that in your text or emails? Of you gave us kind of the ranges of the appraisal.
  • HS: I have not given any of the emails that was going on between you, me, and Jeff.
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: Nothing at all.
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: So it’s not there.
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: So that, because remember, nothing came from the city hall going to you right off.
  • Ament: Ok. Right, right.
  • HS: It was my private emails on even my text and all that with you, I erased everything.
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: So, if you, if they ever say that you meet with the mayor, just say, “Yeah, occasionally we talked because I wanted to know the economic development.”
  • Ament: Yeah.
  • HS: “This is part of the project that the Chamber was working on.”

Deep FBI voice: “I believe Ament was expressing his concern to SIDHU about being questioned before the OC Grand Jury, specifically about Ament’s knowledge and/or involvement in receiving information from SIDHU and subsequently passing said information onto the Angels during negotiations. Rather than simply advising that Ament tell the truth to the OC Grand Jury, SIDHU instead reassured Ament that, “I have not given any of the emails that was going on between you, me, and Flint.” SIDHU further explained that “nothing came from the city hall going to you… [i]t was my private emails on even my text and all that with you, I erased everything.”

“First, I believe SIDHU’s reference to “any of the emails” between him, Ament and Flint to be a reference, in part, to the Key Issues document email discussed above — an email that SIDHU provided to Ament and Flint during stadium sale negotiations.

“Second, I believe SIDHU’s clarification that he used his private email (believed to be a reference to the SUBJECT ACCOUNT) and that “nothing came from the city hall” was his attempt at further reassuring Ament that the OC Grand Jury would not be able to access evidence (e.g., via a public records act request) that he was covertly passing information, through Ament and Flint, to the Angels during negotiations. Finally, in case Ament remained concerned, I believe SIDHU again attempted to reassure him when he stated, ‘I erased everything.’

“Throughout their conversation, and as was illustrated above, SIDHU appeared concerned about the OC Grand Jury uncovering the fact that SIDHU had passed information to the Angels, via Ament, during stadium sale negotiations. When asked why SIDHU would be concerned with the OC Grand Jury uncovering such facts, Ament advised that the public perception of such actions would negatively affect SIDHU and could potentially prevent the stadium deal between Anaheim and the Angels from being finalized. [V: Damn right!] SIDHU’s concern appeared to be significant, to the point of instructing Ament to lie to the OC Grand Jury, as was illustrated in the same recorded conversation, during which the following exchange occurred…”

  • HS: So, so when you, again your key thing is, when, when they talk to you about this basically say, “Yeah I talked with the Mayor, about, you know, during the time of, not negotiations, but after the negotiations was done.” And came back to city hall and he asked for the economic development and, we were, you know, we were there and supporting this.
  • Ament: Mhmm [no doubt thinking about how all this is gonna sound to the Feds]
  • HS: You know.
  • Ament: The hard part, and I think what everybody’s freaked out about is people know we had meetings. And people may have been watching us. So, you know, to lie, is probably not good. I think we just, you know, the meetings occurred.
  • HS: Right.

Deep FBI voice: “I believe that here SIDHU was coaching Ament on what to say to the OC Grand Jury. Specifically, SIDHU appeared to be instructing Ament to (1) tell the OC Grand Jury that CW2 had met with SIDHU about the Angels deal after the negotiations between Angels and Anaheim had ended and (2) conceal the fact that Ament and SIDHU had discussed negotiations while they were ongoing. After SIDHU gave these instructions to Ament, Ament again expressed his concern about lying to the OC Grand Jury, further stating that, in fact, the meetings that SIDHU had previously coached Ament to tell the OC Grand Jury had occurred after negotiations actually occurred during negotiations. SIDHU appeared to confirm Ament’s statement when he replied, ‘Right.’

“After SIDHU advised Ament that he (SIDHU) had concealed and/or destroyed evidence related to information possibly being sought by the OC Grand Jury, and after SIDHU instructed Ament to lie to the OC Grand Jury, SIDHU then appeared to task Ament with sharing information he was likely to glean from the OC Grand Jury so that SIDHU could prepare for his own Grand Jury testimony, as indicated in the below exchange that took place during the same recorded conversation…”

  • HS: So, what you want to do is write down, after your meeting is over, I need you to write those questions down yourself.
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: Right after you come home.
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: Write it down.
  • Ament: Ok.
  • HS: Because then, then we’ll meet and at least you’ll let me know what happened.

Deep FBI voice: “… I believe there are several motivating factors driving SIDHU to go to such lengths (i.e., concealing and/or destroying evidence and instructing Ament to make false statements to the grand jury), including maintaining his reputation in Anaheim, and ensuring his reelection in November 2022 is unaffected by any revelation of impropriety. I also believe, based on recorded conversations conducted between Ament and SIDHU, and as illustrated below, that another motivating factor was SIDHU’s intention to solicit monetary compensation from an individual, in the form of campaign contributions, in exchange for pushing the stadium deal through on more favorable terms for the Angels.

There’s more, much more, and you could read the whole thing, but that’s the most colorful stuff.

Except for ….

Harry Hides a Yellow Helicopter!

The blog thanks reader Allen Wilson for performing the distasteful and arduous task of sifting through Sidhu’s Facebook to find the above illustration of Harry’s now-notorious Yellow Copter. The FBI was especially irritated that, after purchasing this vehicle in California, Harry had it registered at a friend’s address in Arizona just to save himself a mere $15,000 in California sales tax! (And then went on to regularly store his yellow baby at a hangar in Chino.)

Oh, do you want to know whose address Harry registered it at in Scottsdale AZ? Why, the home of the father-in-law of Joe Manzella, a longtime kleptocrat supporter and crony of Pringle and Sidhu, who used to own the restaurant The Catch and put on lotsa fundraisers for that crowd (from which me and Daniel Robbins were thrown out.)

Sidhu’s going to such length to avoid a little taxes puts me in mind of his idol Donald Trump. Still, even though it was less than $15K he saved himself, with this one dumb action he made his criminal spree INTERSTATE, which is a big deal.

Isn’t it “EGG-cellent” that Harry was able to drop Easter eggs from his Yellow Copter, with what looks like his stoner son Rohan in the back seat, over the back lawn of Anaheim Hills’ Influence Church, which I think can be fairly labeled the “Klepto-Church” (just as Brewery Zero is the Klepto-Brewery, and The Catch WAS the Klepto-Eatery.)

Another memory that this Helicopter brings back: When Harry impersonated a veteran in the 2018 Anaheim Hills July 4 parade, standing on the back of a Humvee in a flight suit during his first Mayoral Election, his apologists all cried, “It’s just a flight suit, and he does drive a helicopter!” Well, apparently he does… but he still impersonated a veteran to get elected.

But I digress.

I needs must wrap this up now, but this is a story that JUST KEEPS GOING, and promises to be “The Gift That Keeps Giving” for many more months at least.

  • Anaheim has just hired a “CRISIS MANAGER” and guess who they picked? Lobbyist and Orange Councilwoman Ariana Barrios, who served for years as Kris Murray’s Council Aide, and is obviously waist-deep in Anaheim corruption as anyone. Does that make this a good choice or a lame-ass choice? I would go with lame-ass.
  • As of Wednesday the Council unanimously (except for Gloria who was probably just unreachable) wants Harry to resign. At last night’s meeting all Sidhu’s Council allies (O’Neil, Faessel, Ma’ae, Diaz) talked about how shocked and devastated they were, how they really had no idea. Jesus. And you know they’re quaking in their boots. I’ll save my commentary on this for my next story, to be entitled: “Shocked! Shocked! Shocked! The Cries of the Complicit.”
  • Another thing that really got under the skin of me, Donna, Batiste, and many others, was when Avelino and others who at least were calling for Sidhu’s resignation moaned about what a DARK DAY Monday was – the “darkest day in Anaheim history.” NO IT WAS NOT! It was a flash of brightness after YEARS of darkness. Monday May 16, 2022 was a DAY OF LIGHT in Anaheim. Get it straight, people!
  • Dr. Jose Moreno, as expected, attempted to wrangle lemonade Tuesday night by bringing back his long-rejected platform of Campaign Finance Reform. And he said and suggested a lot more too, mira no mas:

  • Remember – ALL ANAHEIM ROADS LEAD TO DISNEY. (Or as Jose pronounces it, Disneh.) Just as surely, Melahat roads lead to all over the County, especially Irvine! (Much more Melahat in the next story)
  • Will the People’s Homeless Task Force now be appealing that awful nonsensical ruling of Judge Hoffer, that the City did NOT break the Brown Act in the Angels deal? The FBI filings would be very helpful in that, they specifically mention information Harry and his cronies withheld from the court. Well, I DON’T KNOW YET, and if I did I don’t have permission to tell you yet. But here’s two reasons I really hope we do appeal: I want Kelly Aviles to get her legal fees from Anaheim, and recover her “undefeated” reputation. And bigger than that – Hoffer’s ruling left The Brown Act an empty shell, a paper tiger, and this awful ruling needs to be undone before it becomes a precedent.
  • Last of all WHY DON’T WE HAVE A FUCKING DA WHO WILL GO AFTER POLITICAL CORRUPTION??? Why do we have to wait and pray that the Feds will come in. Todd Spitzer has known for years how corrupt Sidhu and his crowd are, he even mentioned it (knowing his crowd) when he spoke at Los Amigos during his first election campaign. But since then, nothing. PETE HARDIN, MIKE JACOBS, BRYAN CHEHOCK, you need to be talking about this! . . . .
  • BECAUSE THIS IS THE TIP OF THE FUCKING ICEBERG.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.