Archive for the category “Federal Bureau of Investigation”

Sidhu Registered Helicopter at Arizona Home of Businessman Who Owned The Catch Restaurant

Mayor Harry Sidhu with his son tossing out Easter eggs from his helicopter at Ronald Reagan Park in Anaheim Hills in April 2022.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

Public records that The Anaheim Investigator has carefully reviewed–including a recent petition filed in federal bankruptcy court–show Mayor Harry Sidhu registered his helicopter at the Arizona home of Joseph Manzella, a prominent businessman who previously owned The Catch, a restaurant which at one time was a favorite watering hole and dining spot for members of Anaheim’s resort elite.

The Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aviation Registry shows Sidhu listed “8024 E. Lone Mountain Rd” in Scottsdale, Arizona as the address for the certificate they issued for his helicopter in 2020. But according to the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office, that property is owned by the Don and Ana Cardamon Family Revocable Trust, of whom The Investigator believes are the parents of Manzella’s wife, Michelle Cardamon Manzella.

In August 2019, Joseph Manzella filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the mark “Olive Pit Grill,” an effort that was later abandoned because of strong opposition from a similarly-branded restaurant located in Boca Rotan, Florida. However, in the original paperwork Manzella submitted to the federal government in this case, he reported that “8024 E. Lone Mountain Rd” was his address.

From the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Earlier this year, on March 26, 2022, Manzella filed a petition seeking relief under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Arizona District in Phoenix where he declared under penalty of perjury that his address was, once again, “8024 E. Lone Mountain Rd,” even checkmarking a box which stated: “Over the last 180 days before filing this petition, I lived in this district longer than any other district.”

Though The Catch permanently closed its doors in October 2021, ostensibly due to financial problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Manzella is linked to a holding company called Tableside Partners Inc., which still owns and operates several restaurants and brew pubs here in Orange County, including the TAPS Fish House and Brewery in Brea and TAPS Brewery and Barrel Room in Tustin.

Sidhu used The Catch for a major fundraiser in 2017.

Ever since the State Attorney General’s Office filed documents containing an affidavit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleging that the mayor committed tax fraud by registering his helicopter at an Arizona address, much media attention has been focused on that angle. But so far, aside from one clever person on Twitter, nobody has really bothered to investigate the reason why that address was chosen.

There is no evidence that Manzella, his wife, nor any of his relatives are complicit in any wrongdoing with respect to this matter, both criminal or otherwise. If anything, this is a story about how relationships between politicians and their friends, which were once kept hidden from public view, have suddenly become laid bare for all to see by the corruption scandal that has engulfed Anaheim.

[UPDATE: Harry Sidhu has stepped down as Anaheim mayor. His resignation will be effective on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.]

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Says Campaign Ended Ties With Consultant Under FBI Scrutiny for Alleged Bribes

Ashleigh Aitken (left), Democratic candidate for Anaheim mayor, with Melahat Rafiei (right), owner of Progressive Solutions Consulting, in 2019.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

The Anaheim Investigator has discovered that a Form 460 filed by the “Aitken for Mayor 2022” campaign committee reported they made a $10,000 payment to Progressive Solutions Consulting, a firm owned by Melahat Rafiei, a Democratic Party operative who is at the center of a corruption scandal involving cannabis businesses and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

The document in question, which was submitted to the City of Anaheim on January 31, 2022, lists on page 77 that Progressive Solutions Consulting received the cash sometime between July and December of last year. The code used to identify the purpose of the payment is “CNS,” meaning Rafiei was consulting Ashleigh Aitken on her bid to become Anaheim’s next mayor.

In response to several questions The Investigator posed to Aitken about her relationship with Rafiei, the mayoral candidate acknowledged her “campaign contracted with Progressive Solutions Consulting at the end of 2021,” but said “we terminated our relationship with the company in February when Melahat Rafiei informed us that she was the subject of an investigation.”

On Thursday, Rafiei admitted to the Voice of OC she was “CW1,” a cooperating witness mentioned in an affidavit the Federal Bureau of Investigation filed in federal court to support criminal charges against Todd Ament, former president and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. However, she has denied allegations she tried to bribe public officials in the City of Irvine.

Besides being a political consultant, Rafiei also happens to be the co-founder of WeCann, a company based near downtown Santa Ana that boasts itself as a “one-stop shop for cannabis entrepreneurs,” helping them with a wide array of issues ranging from “real estate acquisition and disposition, licensing fulfillment, business and investment consulting, and public advocacy.”

Furthermore, Rafiei, who is a resident of Anaheim Hills, not only is a member of the Cultural and Heritage Commission of the City of Anaheim, but was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2021 to serve on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fair Board in Costa Mesa, a deliberative body of which Aitken has also been a part of since 2012.

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