The Irvine City Council will host a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to discuss aspects of a plea agreement involving Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan’s former advisor Melahat Rafiei. Rafiei signed a plea agreement on Jan. 19 in a bribery case involving former members of the Irvine City Council.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California confirmed that Rafiei agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge for attempted wire fraud.
“The former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge for attempting to defraud one of her political consultancy firm’s clients. She further admitted in court documents that she agreed to bribe two members of the Irvine City Council – both on cannabis-related matters,” the release stated.
In terms of the special meeting, it is unclear what actions the city can take.
On Monday, Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim said she and fellow council members Dr. Kathleen Treseder and Larry Agran moved to place the item on the agenda. Kim added that the meeting will serve as a deep dive into Melahat’s dealings in Irvine, both with Mayor Khan and city staff.
“It really is looking at the plea deal and understanding Irvine’s involvement, and understanding the mayor’s relationship with Melahat even after all the news coming out that she was an FBI informant,” she said. “Really learning and understanding how the mayor was directing Melahat to conduct business on the mayor’s behalf. It’s what was happening, why it was happening and who allowed it to happen.”
In a phone call with Irvine Weekly on Monday, council member Treseder said she expects the city to present options for an internal investigation into Refiei’s relationships in Irvine – specifically at City Hall, and within the Orange County Power Authority.
“Rafiei was heavily involved with the [OC Power] Authority starting up and that was part of her role in advising Mayor Khan,” Treseder explained. “It seems like Melahat was involved in the mayor’s campaign, all throughout the campaign season — even though the Mayor denied it publicly, so I’m very curious.”
As terms of the plea agreement, Rafiei, who is charged with attempted wire fraud, could face the possibility of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years supervised release, according to court documents observed by Irvine Weekly.
Last year, Rafiei, who served as secretary for the California Democratic Party and state representative to the Democratic National Committee, as well as an advisor to Khan, was called on to resign by other politicians after a 2019 arrest for attempting to bribe members of the Irvine City Council was publicized.
In an affidavit released, FBI special agent Brian Adkins wrote that the investigation into Rafiei uncovered a plan devised by Rafiei included the “intention of paying bribes to two elected members of the Irvine City Council in exchange for the Council Members performing official acts, resulting in the passage of favorable cannabis laws,” the affidavit wrote.
Rafiei resigned from her position in May. Despite Rafiei’s resignation, Khan tweeted in support of Rafiei, adding that “assumptions and misinformation” were surrounding Rafiei’s case.
Rafiei is expected in court on Feb. 6.
This is a developing story.
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