LAUSD Board President Charged With Three Felony Counts Over 'Political Money Laundering'

Refugio Rodriguez, president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board, has been charged with three felony counts over donations made to his successful campaign for office in 2015, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday.

As reported at the L.A. Times, the charges stem from a months-long investigation into his campaign finances. Authorities accuse Rodriguez of reimbursing about $24,000 that had been donated to his campaign, which the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission characterizes as "political money laundering." Rodriguez had listed the $24,000 as being donated by 25 separate donors on a campaign finance report that was allegedly signed under the penalty of perjury. The D.A. says that these individuals were friends or family, and that they were later paid back.

The City Ethics Commission, who headed the investigation, said in a statement that their attention was piqued by a “whistleblower complaint.”

“During the investigation, staff reviewed Rodriguez’s campaign contributions and committee records, contacted alleged contributors, interviewed campaign staff and volunteers, and analyzed financial documents,” said the Ethics Commission.

Responding to the charges, LAUSD released a statement saying, “L.A. Unified has been made aware of the charges against Dr. Ref Rodriguez. These allegations are not connected to any District business. However, we will cooperate, as needed, with the District Attorney’s Office.”

Rodriguez now faces one felony count each of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution, perjury, and procuring and offering a false or forged instrument. Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, a cousin of Rodriguez’s who’d purportedly aided in the alleged scheme, also faces a felony count of conspiracy.

If sentenced, Rodriguez faces a possible maximum sentence of four years and four months in local custody. Melendrez faces up to three years in local custody.

On the Board, Rodriguez represents District 5, which spans from Los Feliz through South Gate.