A former Arizona legislator will be sentenced Wednesday for felony convictions for seeking and accepting bribes while he was a Tempe city councilman and misleading donors about a scholarship fund that benefited his relatives.
Former Rep. Ben Arredondo had admitted in October that he accepted sporting tickets and other benefits from FBI agents who posed as employees for a real estate development company looking to do business in Tempe. In exchange, Arredondo divulged confidential information from a city bidding process and lined up meetings and phone calls between the company and city officials.
The former Democratic lawmaker also admitted that more than $49,000 from a scholarship fund he established had gone to seven of his relatives. He never revealed to prospective donors that family members were receiving the funds and instead said their money would pay for college fees and books for average students.
Prosecutors were seeking a 30-month prison sentence and a $49,000 fine, arguing that Arredondo abused the public's trust for sporting tickets and personal gain.
Arredondo's attorneys, who were seeking probation and home confinement for their client, said the former lawmaker knew his actions were illegal and accepts full responsibility. The defense lawyers characterized Arredondo's illegal conduct as an aberration for a man committed to community and family.
Arredondo pleaded guilty in October to honest services mail fraud — the technical charge for bribery often used in public corruption cases — and mail fraud. The guilty pleas forced Arredondo to resign from the Legislature.
He was elected to the Legislature in November 2010 after 16 years on the Tempe City Council. The former teacher also previously served on a school board and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Last year, Arredondo was named in a Fiesta Bowl report that said the operation provided Arredondo with tickets to NFL games at his request while he was a City Council member. He and numerous other current or former legislators identified in the Fiesta Bowl report as accepting game tickets or trips to football games were not prosecuted.
Federal prosecutors said Arredondo behaved like he was on retainer for the development company by using his post as a Tempe council member to influence the decisions of other officials in ways that were favorable to the company. They said Arredondo's actions weren't aberrant, but rather a longstanding corrupt relationship with the company.
Prosecutors said bribes paid to Arredondo totaled more than $5,200, consisting of sports tickets and tables at charity events for which Arredondo would invite people to fill the seats at each table. Defense attorneys said the figure is lower than prosecutors have calculated.
Arredondo's lawyers sought a lenient sentence, saying the mental and physical health of the 65-year-old is deteriorating. They said he suffers from chronic anxiety and bipolar disorder and was hospitalized in July 2010 for kidney failure caused by his diabetes medication.
They also said Arredondo's accomplishments as a Tempe City Council member included working to renovate local parks and bringing affordable grocery stores to blighted neighborhoods.