Todd Ament, the former president and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for defrauding a cannabis company, fraudulently obtaining a COVID-relief business loan worth nearly $62,000, lying to a bank while seeking a loan for a $1.5 million second home, and cheating on his taxes. Amend pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.
In 2019, Ament, who served as president and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, and a political consultant who was a partner in a public relations firm, schemed to divert proceeds intended for the Chamber through the PR firm and into Ament's personal bank account. Ament and the political consultant schemed to defraud a cannabis company that hired the political consultant to lobby for favorable cannabis-related legislation in Anaheim. The cannabis company paid $225,000 to the Chamber believing it would have access to a task force that crafted such legislation, but at least $41,000 of that money was paid directly to Ament without those payments being disclosed to the client.
In April 2020, Ament applied to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) for his company, TA Consulting LLC. The sole proprietorship based in Big Bear City had no substantial operations or employees. In May 2020, the SBA wired Ament $61,900 as EIDL proceeds for his business. Ament used the money to pay for personal expenses, including clothes, boats, and his house property taxes. In December 2020, Ament lied to JPMorgan Chase by submitting a letter falsely representing that three deposits from the PR firm to Ament-controlled bank accounts – totaling $205,000 – were earned income based on services provided by TA Consulting LLC on the PR firm's behalf. In fact, Ament knew the $205,000 represented a loan to himself and was not earned income.
Ament admitted that for the tax years 2017, 2018 and 2019, he filed false tax returns that did not report all his income. For example, in July 2019, Ament signed and filed a federal tax return that reported that his gross receipts for the tax year 2018 was $0, when in fact his actual gross receipts for that year were $179,336. Ament caused a tax loss to the United States government of $249,998 for those three tax years.
Ament faces 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count, 30 years in federal prison for the false statement to a financial institution count, and three years' imprisonment for the tax count.