Todd Ament, 57, Orange, California, the former president and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce pleaded guilty today to federal criminal charges for defrauding a cannabis company, fraudulently obtaining a COVID-relief business loan worth nearly $62,000, lying to a bank while seeking a loan for a $1.5 million second home, and cheating on his taxes.
According to his plea agreement, in 2019, Ament served as president and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. During that time, Ament and a political consultant who was a partner at a national public relations firm, devised a scheme to divert proceeds intended for the Chamber through the PR firm and into Ament’s personal bank account.
Ament and the political consultant schemed to defraud a cannabis company that had retained the political consultant to lobby for favorable cannabis-related legislation in Anaheim. The cannabis company paid $225,000 to the Chamber with the understanding that it would have access to a task force that crafted such legislation, but at least $41,000 of that money was paid directly to Ament without those payments being disclosed to the client.
In December 2020, Ament lied to JPMorgan Chase by submitting a letter falsely representing that three deposits from the PR firm to Ament-controlled bank accounts – totaling $205,000 – were earned income based on services provided by TA Consulting LLC on the PR firm’s behalf. In fact, Ament knew the $205,000 represented a loan to himself and was not earned income.
In April 2020, Ament applied to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) on behalf of his company, TA Consulting LLC, a sole proprietorship based in Big Bear City that had no substantial operations or employees. In May 2020, the SBA wired Ament $61,900 as EIDL proceeds for his business. Ament used the money to pay for various personal expenses, including at clothing stores, boat dealers and on property taxes on his home.
Finally, Ament admitted in his plea agreement that for the tax years 2017, 2018 and 2019 he knowingly and willfully caused false tax returns to be signed and filed that did not report income he had received from various sources. For example, in July 2019, Ament signed and filed a federal tax return that reported that his gross receipts for the tax year 2018 was $0, when in fact his actual gross receipts for that year were $179,336.
In total, Ament caused a tax loss to the United States government of $249,998 for those three tax years.
Ament pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.
United States District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha scheduled a December 9 sentencing hearing, at which time Ament will face statutory maximum sentences of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count, 30 years in federal prison for the false statement to a financial institution count, and three years’ imprisonment for the tax count.
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation are investigating this matter.
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