Democratic Party Official Confirms Involvement in Anaheim FBI Probe

By Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.
and Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
May 19, 2022 Updated: May 20, 2022

A top California Democratic Party leader and cannabis consultant has confirmed she was a cooperating witness in an FBI probe into alleged corruption in Anaheim by city officials and the former head of the city’s chamber of commerce.

Melahat Rafiei told two news organizations May 19 she cooperated with the investigation.

“In 2019, I was approached by the FBI who wrongly believed that I was involved in improperly influencing public officials,” she said in a statement Thursday morning, according to the Orange County Register. “I cooperated fully with the FBI — doing what I could to help in their effort to root out corruption in Anaheim city government.”

Rafiei is the secretary of the California Democratic Party, a two-term member of the Democratic National Committee, a political consultant and works with cannabis companies.

She was also appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to the Orange County Fair board of directors in September 2021.

The investigation was revealed this week in two court filings detailing alleged corruption involving the city’s Mayor Harry Sidhu and Todd Ament, the former president of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to Rafiei’s confirmation to the news media, several local officials speculated she was one of two cooperating witnesses, identified as CW1 in a criminal complaint filed in an U.S. District Court May 16 seeking legal intervention by the court to postpone, for 60 days, the sale of Angel Stadium, which was granted.

The city and the Angels have been negotiating the sale of the stadium to owner Arte Moreno since 2019. Controversial on a number of accounts—including the land’s value and the terms of the sale—the deal was approved by the city council in 2020, but still faced multiple lawsuits.

“It was confirmed to me … by a reliable Democratic source Melahat is CW1,” former Irvine Mayor Christina Shea told The Epoch Times. “I would think reading the documents that’s accurate.”

According to the complaint, FBI Special Agent Brian Adkins said the bureau had been investigating CW1 since 2018 for suspected theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and that she offered to pay bribes to elected officials.

The FBI tapped CW1’s phone for one month in the summer of 2019.

On Oct. 28, 2019, CW1 was arrested, according to the affidavit and that day agreed to cooperate with the FBI on the now revealed investigation. The complaint against CW1 was dismissed at the request of the government.

A second action—a criminal complaint—was filed by the same FBI agent May 16 seeking the arrest of Ament, 57, of Orange.

It accuses Ament of colluding with a political consultant to funnel the chamber’s money to his personal bank account by laundering it through a public relations firm.

The money was used to bolster Ament’s bank account for a five-bedroom house he was purchasing in 2020 in Big Bear, according to the complaint.

“This infusion of cash – which appears to have been a loan from the PR firm engineered by the political consultant – allegedly influenced the lender’s decision to fund the mortgage,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.

Ament appeared in federal court May 17 following the charges.

Attempts to contact Rafiei and Ament were unsuccessful.

Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.