The former head of Anaheim’s Chamber of Commerce is looking at hard time in federal prison, amidst an FBI public corruption probe in town that has local government and business leaders frozen in the spotlight.
Todd Ament, the 57-year-old former Chamber CEO, pleaded guilty on Friday to federal criminal charges for defrauding a cannabis company, fraudulently obtaining a COVID-relief business loan worth roughly $62,000, lying to a bank while seeking a loan for a $1.5 million home in the San Bernardino Mountains, and filing false tax returns, according to a Friday news release sent out by the Department of Justice.
That’s two counts of wire fraud, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and one count of a false tax return.
Ament faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count – so 40 years – and 30 years in federal prison for the count of making a false statement to a financial institution.
He also faces three years’ imprisonment for the false tax returns count.
Calls and texts to Ament were unreturned as of Friday afternoon as well as a call to his attorney.
In an FBI agent’s written affidavit attached to Ament’s criminal complaint filed in May, Ament was described as the ringleader of a group of powerful insiders who controlled public affairs and policymaking through elected officials at City Hall.
In 2019, Ament and a political consultant at a national public relations firm hatched a plan to divert money intended for the Chamber, through the consultant’s PR firm, and into Ament’s personal bank account, Ament admitted in a plea agreement signed by his attorney on June 1.
Ament admitted in his plea agreement that he and the PR consultant made a cannabis company believe it was paying $225,000 for a task force that would craft favorable legislation regarding cannabis.
But at least $41,000 of that money went directly to Ament’s “personal bank account,” the plea agreement reads.
“They [Ament and the consultant] were not given influence over drafting a proposed cannabis ordinance as promised,” wrote FBI agent Brian Adkins in his May affidavit.
In fact, Adkins wrote, they “appeared to have advocated against the interests of [the Cannabis company] despite having solicited, and collected, a significant amount of money from them.”
And in April 2020, Ament applied to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) on behalf of his holding property, TA Consulting LLC, based in Big Bear City “with no substantial operations or employees,” reads his plea agreement.
In May 2020, the SBA wired Ament $61,900 as EIDL proceeds for his business.
Ament “used that money to pay for various personal expenses – including purchases at suit stores, retail clothing stores, and retail boat dealers –- and property taxes related to his home,” his plea agreement reads.
Later, in December that year, Ament made “false statements and reports” to JPMorgan Chase by claiming that three deposits from the PR firm to Ament’s bank accounts – “totaling $205,000” – were earned income based on services provided by TA Consulting LLC on the PR firm’s behalf, according to the plea agreement.
But the reality, Ament admitted in his plea agreement, was that the $205,000 “represented a loan to [himself] and not any earned income.”
Such “schemes” were made possible by Ament’s sway, according to federal authorities.
“I believe Ament and (the political consultant) have been successful in completing the aforementioned schemes, and possibly others, because, at the time, they both occupied positions of influence within the City of Anaheim,” Adkins wrote in his May affidavit.
On top of that, Ament admitted he “knowingly and willfully” falsified tax returns omitting income he had received from various sources in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 tax years, reads the plea agreement.
In total, authorities say Ament caused a tax loss to the United States government of $249,998 for those three tax years, in a news release on Friday announcing Ament’s guilty plea.
U.S. District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Dec. 9.