Federal indictment charges Arizona legislator

PHOENIX - A federal indictment charged an Arizona legislator Wednesday with bribery and other crimes stemming from an FBI undercover investigation into his conduct as a city council member.

Rep. Ben Arredondo, D-Tempe, solicited thousands of dollars of tickets to sports games and other special events, receiving them from undercover agents posing as representatives of a company trying to acquire city-owned property.

Arredondo, who served on the Tempe council for 16 years before being elected to the state House in 2010, was charged with bribery, fraud, attempted extortion and false statements.

Arredondo, 64, is to be arraigned May 30 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

Arredondo's attorney Lee Stein said his client will plead not guilty. Stein said he and Arredondo for now would not comment on specific allegations. "Suffice to say, we see the facts very differently from the government, but we will do our talking in court," Stein said.

Arredondo did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

The five-count indictment against Arredondo is the latest of several black eyes for the Arizona Legislature this year.

Former state Rep. Richard Miranda resigned shortly before being indicted on criminal charges stemming from a charity he formerly ran, and ex-Rep. Daniel Patterson and ex-Sen. Scott Bundgaard resigned from office, cutting short ethics proceedings stemming from domestic violence allegations.

Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, a Tempe Democrat who represents the same district as Arredondo, said Arredondo should resign from the Legislature immediately because the allegations, "whether he is guilty or innocent, will pose too great a distraction for him to fulfill the duties of his office."

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said: "We are shocked by the news of the charges against Mr. Arredondo. When laws are broken, people must take responsibility. Mr. Arredondo should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

The five-count indictment alleged that Arredondo sought and received more than $6,000 in tickets to baseball, basketball and football games and other events in 2009 and 2010 while a Tempe City Council member and in the months after he left office in July 2010.

The tickets included 18 for Arizona Diamondbacks games with a total value of approximately $2,400 and four tickets to an American League Championship Series baseball game with a total value of $1,225, the department said.

The false statements charge accuses Arredondo of lying to FBI agents during a January 2012 interview.

According to the indictment, Arredondo sought the tickets and did not pay for them but acted to help set up meetings between Tempe city officials and the FBI agents posing as representatives of a real estate development company.

Arredondo also divulged confidential information from a city bidding process, the indictment alleged.

Last year, Arredondo was named in a Fiesta Bowl report that disclosed a wide array of improper or questionable spending by bowl officials, including providing state legislators with free tickets and trips to football games.

The report said the Fiesta Bowl provided Arredondo with tickets to NFL games at his request while a Tempe City Council member, which the report said may have violated a prohibition on acceptance of certain gifts.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office reviewed parts of the report dealing with elected officials but declined to prosecute, saying state laws on gifts and financial disclosures were confusing and vague.

A retired teacher, Arredondo served on a school board and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the Tempe council.

State Representative David Schapira with the Democratic party has asked for Rep. Arredondo to resign from his seat in the House of  Representatives.

They issued the following statement Wednesday:

"In the interests of our constituents, Rep. Arredondo should immediately resign to ensure that those in our community have unabridged representation. The Department of Justice allegations against him are deeply troubling and, whether he is guilty or innocent, will pose too great a distraction for him to fulfill the duties of his office. Arizonans expect and deserve more from their elected officials. Sadly, this is another reminder of why we need more ethics reforms at all levels of government and leaders who are willing to uphold them."

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