Former dean of USC School of Social Work pleads guilty to federal bribery

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A former dean of the USC School of Social Work has pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in a political corruption case involving suspended Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, will be sentenced on March 20, 2023.

Prosecutors are expected to recommend that she serve about a year in prison, serve house arrest and pay a fine of at least $100,000. The federal bribery charges can carry a term of up to 10 years behind bars.

In response to news of Flynn’s advocacy deal, USC issued a statement last week saying, “USC supports the School of Social Work and the role it plays in educating those who serve the public interest. Hearing about the former dean’s unethical behavior in 2018, we promptly reported the matter to the US Attorney’s Office. Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the university since September 2018. USC is not a party to the criminal case, but will respect due process.”

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Ridley-Thomas is due to appear in court in November.

Under her advocacy agreement, in 2018 Flynn sought an amendment to a contract between the School of Social Work and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health regarding services provided by USC Telehealth — a clinic with USC students providing online mental health and advisory services to clients referred by the province.

Prosecutors said the social work school was struggling with a budget deficit of millions of dollars at the time.

According to prosecutors, Ridley-Thomas, now a member of the Los Angeles City Council, allegedly arranged in April 2018 for Flynn to donate $100,000 from his campaign account through the School of Social Work to a nonprofit managed by his son, Sebastian Ridley. -Thomas, has deposited. , who had recently resigned from the state assembly amid a sexual harassment investigation.

Prosecutors allege that Mark Ridley-Thomas wanted to give the money to support his son’s nonprofit, but did not want the funds tied to him or his campaign. So he agreed to give the money to Flynn, who then sent $100,000 in college funds to the nonprofit known as the Policy, Research & Practice Initiative.

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Flynn and Ridley-Thomas allegedly hid the scheme from USC, knowing it would violate university policy, prosecutors said.

After the money transfer was completed, Ridley-Thomas is said to have arranged a meeting in May 2018 between Flynn and a high-ranking county official to discuss how to proceed with the change Flynn sought to the Telehealth contract. Ridley-Thomas then voted for the amended contract, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors previously said the amended contract was expected to bring in about $9 million a year for the School of Social Work.

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas later became a professor of social work and public policy at USC – despite not having a graduate degree. He was later fired over questions about his original appointment and concerns from the university about the $100,000 donation. The charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas also alleged that he colluded with Flynn to obtain a full scholarship and admission to graduate school for his son.

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Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the Los Angeles City Council after the federal indictment. He is charged with one count each of conspiracy and bribery, two counts of honest service mail fraud and 15 counts of honest service wire transfer fraud. He strongly denies any wrongdoing.

Flynn was dean of the School of Social Work at USC for 21 years until her departure in 2018. She originally had the same federal charges as Ridley-Thomas.

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