Former AZ legislator sentenced for fraud convictions - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Former AZ legislator sentenced for fraud convictions

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(Source: CBS 5 News) Ben Arredondo (Source: CBS 5 News) Ben Arredondo
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PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

A former Arizona legislator, convicted of soliciting and accepting a bribe while he was a Tempe city councilman and misleading donors about a scholarship fund to benefit his relatives, will not be going to prison.

On Wednesday afternoon, Judge Frederick Martone sentenced former state Rep. Ben Arredondo to three years probation, 18 months home confinement and ordered him to pay $5,740 in fines, assessments and restitution.

Arredondo pleaded guilty in October to honest services wire fraud, the technical charge for bribery that is often used in public corruption cases.

He also pleaded guilty to wire fraud for setting up a scholarship fund that benefited some of his relatives while telling donors it was for disadvantaged youth.

"The judge made it very clear that Mr. Arredondo took responsibility for the things that he did," said defense attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou. "But, the judge also made clear, this was very different from many corruption cases and this was not, at the end of the day, a typical case nor was Ben the typical defendant. And, I think his sentence reflected that ."

Martone told the court, which was packed with emotional Arredondo supporters, it's a fair sentence for a case that is "cheap, tawdry and pathetic" - but, noted Arredondo is "far from being Jack the Ripper."

In fact, he questioned whether the resources of the federal government were appropriately directed during a 2 1/2-year period.

That is in reference to the sting operation that had FBI agents posing as land developers who gave Arredondo sports tickets - in exchange for his help in securing a development deal - while he was a Tempe city councilman.

The prosecution says those tickets were valued at more than $5,000.

Before the sentencing was read, Arredondo's son spoke on his father's behalf - saying he was to blame for his father accepting the tickets.

Ben Arredondo Jr. blamed his own selfishness for pressuring his father to accept them.

The defendant took full responsibility in court, stating,"I knew it was wrong to take the tickets, I knew it was wrong."

But, Arredondo contends it would never have compromised his vote on any land deal.

He said he simply wanted to improve a blighted neighborhood where the "developers" were looking.

The prosecution painted Arredondo as a corrupt politician who abused the trust of his constituents and those who donated to his "Arredondo Scholarship Fund."

In the latter example, the fund benefited seven of his distant family members to the tune of more than 50,000 dollars - something donors didn't know about.

But, the defense pointed out that of the nearly 200 letters sent to donors, only one came forward as a victim wanting restitution.

Friends and family members who spoke on behalf of Arredondo's character described him as a dedicated public servant who has done far more good than bad for his community - serving as both an educator and mentor.

"I have never seen anything along the lines of these allegations brought forth," Arizona state Sen. Ed Ableser, who has known Arredondo for more than 15 years since he was a student at ASU. "Ben has been nothing but honest, has been nothing but open towards me and our community and I've loved having the opportunity to learn from him in that regard."

While Arredondo avoided a harsher prison sentence, his emotional son told the court his father has already been dealt the harshest punishment he could receive.

"The Arredondo name will always be tarnished in the eyes of the public," said Ben Arredondo Jr.

After Wednesday's sentencing, CBS5 caught up with Arredondo, who was shielded by his family members outside of the courthouse.

Even though it has been 247 days since his indictment, with no public comment, Arredondo refused to speak with the media.

The prosecution, which had been pushing for a minimum of 18 months in prison, also declined to comment.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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