SAN DIEGO – Chula Vista Councilmember Andrea Cardenas and her brother Jesus Cardenas, former chief of staff to San Diego councilmember Stephen Whitburn, are charged with multiple felonies related to federal COVID relief funds.
“The indictments did not come as a surprise to me, or in fact, many people in the city of Chula Vista,” John Moot said.
Moot is a current attorney, former Chula Vista councilmember and longtime Chula Vista resident who points out Andrea had been questioned and even had a formal complaint launched about her campaign spending in the past.
A six-page criminal complaint filed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s office accuses the pair of fraudulently obtaining a roughly $176,000 PPP loan, meant to keep employees paid during the pandemic.
According to prosecutors, the siblings got the loan for their political consulting firm Grassroots Resources by listing employee and business information from a San Diego marijuana dispensary, Harbor Collective.
The complaint accuses Andrea and Jesus of using a portion of the money to pay American Express bills, transfer money to business accounts, as well as a payment for nearly $34,000 to her campaign for city council.
“That $35,000 approximately was then used to pay this campaign debt that was never paid for during the campaign. Obviously $35,000 gave her a tremendous advantage in the election that she won at the time,” Moot said.
Ultimately, Moot believes there may be even more to this case.
“It does make reference to ‘conspired with other persons and persons whose identities are unknown.’ That’s usually lawyer speak for there are others involved and this may not be the last indictment that we see,” Moot said.
Moot said he became aware of inconsistencies in her campaign spending and that led him to enter into the 2022 election for Chula Vista City Attorney.
“I decided to run on the explicit campaign promise of zero tolerance for political corruption in Chula Vista because I was very concerned about what I was observing,” Moot said.
FOX 5 reached out to Cardenas and her fellow Chula Vista councilmembers for comment, the only person to respond was a spokesperson for Mayor McCann, who said “no comment”.
A city spokesperson pointed FOX 5 to Chula Vista city municipal code which says a councilmember position would be vacated for a number of reasons like if they are convicted of a felony, is removed from office by judicial procedure or other state law proceeding, or if they resign.