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Chula Vista councilwoman pleads not guilty to fraud, money laundering charges

Posted at 7:44 PM, Nov 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-09 22:44:21-05

Thursday, Chula Vista City Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas and her brother faced a judge for fraud charges, including grand theft, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud.

Andrea and Jesus Cardenas are accused of obtaining tens of thousands of dollars from fraudulent COVID relief loans.

The siblings appeared in court together alongside their attorneys. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors said the siblings ran a political consulting firm called Grassroots Resources.

In 2021, prosecutors said they falsified information to obtain a Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loan for more than 170,000 dollars.

"Most notably that they had 34 employees for Grassroots Resources. In reality, those individuals were employees of a marijuana dispensary that was a client of theirs," said Deputy District Attorney Chandelle Boyce.

Boyce said the pair then laundered the money into several accounts to pay for personal expenses, including Andera's city council campaign debt.

Cardenas' attorneys said they plan to fight the charges.

When asked if the Cardenas' falsified information on a PPP application, Andrea's attorney, Pedro Bernal, said they had not received any files or discovery in the case yet.

"We're still looking forward to receiving the file from the district attorney's office and answering those questions," Bernal said.

Meanwhile, Chula Vista Mayor John McCann has called on Andrea to resign, saying "considering the serious nature of the alleged crimes, it is clear to me that she must resign from the city council."

Andrea's attorney said she does not plan to step down.

"She's represented her constituents for a long time, and she served her community for many years, and she plans on continuing to do that," Bernal said.

As for Jesus, he resigned as chief of staff for San Diego City Councilman Steve Whitburn earlier this year for an unknown reason.

If convicted on all charges, Andrea faces up to five years and eight months in prison. Jesus could face up to four years and four months in prison.

Prosecutors did not recommend bail since the alleged incident happened in 2021, and they do not believe the Cardenas' are a flight risk.

Both are due back in court in January.