The president of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and his cousin were each charged with conspiracy and perjury related to alleged improper donations to campaign funds.
A news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office states Refugio Rodriguez, 46, and Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, 45, were each charged “with one felony count of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution and 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.”
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In addition, Rodriguez was charged with one felony count each of perjury and falsifying or forging documents.
The release indicates the Los Angeles Ethics Commission received a complaint from a whistleblower in March of 2015 regarding Rodriguez’s alleged questionable fundraising activities.
Though Rodriguez had a late start in filing as a candidate for the school board in November of 2014, he was reportedly able to raise more than $50,000 during the first campaign reporting period that ended December 31, 2014.
The news release explains the allegations that Rodriguez and Melendrez illegally reimbursed 25 individuals for their donations to his campaign fund:
In total, 25 donors, most of whom were family and friends, were allegedly paid back $24,250. The donors’ names were listed on a campaign finance report that was allegedly signed by Rodriguez under the penalty of perjury and submitted to the commission, prosecutors said.
Commission staff found that over a 22-day period in December 2014, nearly half of the campaign contributions were allegedly fraudulent because Rodriguez and Melendrez reimbursed them. The findings were referred to the District Attorney’s Office.
In a statement distributed by the school district, Rodriguez said the charges follow “attempts by my legal team and me to resolve these issues with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission for over two years.”
“As the product of an immigrant family, nobody has more respect for the integrity of the American justice system than I do,” he added. “I have cooperated with authorities and hope these issues will be resolved expeditiously and fairly.”
According to KTLA5, city ethics officials are referring to the case as one involving “political money laundering.”
The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission released a 10-page document in which it details the allegations:
Executive Director Heather Holt has determined that probable cause exists to believe that Refugio Rodriguez (Rodriguez) violated campaign finance laws by engaging in political money laundering and that Elizabeth Melendrez (Melendrez) violated campaign finance laws by aiding and abetting Rodriguez in that political money laundering.
Rodriguez was elected to the school board of the nation’s second-largest school district in 2015 and was elected its president in July of this year.
As Breitbart News reported in May, Rodriguez was part of the majority block of charter school advocates in LAUSD that won a major victory this year in a controversial election that reportedly saw millions of dollars spent by both teachers’ unions – which oppose charter schools – and outside groups funded by charter supporters, including corporations such as Netflix.
LAUSD has the highest number of charter schools and charter students of any other school district, though charters still only represent 16 percent of enrollment.