Prosecutors have accused a Chula Vista councilwoman and her brother of fraudulently obtaining $176,227 in PPP loans and then using the money for personal and campaign expenses.
Andrea Cardenas and her brother Jesus – a political consultant who helped get his sister elected – both face multiple felony counts of conspiracy, money laundering, and other charges.
According to prosecutors, the siblings told the U.S. Small Business Administration that their political consulting business, Grassroots Resources, employed 34 people. The falsehood made the business eligible to obtain a six-figure loan. In actuality, the 34 employees they claimed as theirs were employed by a San Diego pot dispensary.
The loan money was supposed to be spent on payroll and employee retention during the COVID-19 pandemic. But prosecutors say the duo used it to pay off credit cards and other personal items. The funds were also allegedly used to deposit $33,500 in Andrea Cardenas' campaign account.
Andrea Cardenas defeated incumbent Mike Diaz in the 2020 election for Council District 4. She is up for re-election next year. Jesus Cardenas previously served as chief of staff to San Diego Councilman Stephen Whitburn. If convicted, the siblings could face up to five years in prison.
At least one Chula Vista politician is calling on Andrea Cardenas to resign. In a statement, District 2 Councilman Jose Preciado said it is critical that people have trust in their elected leaders.
“Andrea has the right to due process and the presumption of innocence in court,” he added, “but the right thing for her to do now is to resign from the City Council.”