San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has charged Chula Vista City Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas and her brother, Jesus Cardenas, with multiple felonies, including conspiracy to commit a crime and money laundering. The charges are linked to an alleged fraudulent loan of $176,227 obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program in 2021 for their political consulting firm, Grassroots Resources.
The criminal complaint alleges that Jesus Cardenas, 40, falsely represented the number of employees and the nature of the business, and claimed the PPP funds would be used for employee retention and payroll. Instead, the funds were reportedly used for personal expenses.
Andrea Cardenas, 31, is accused of submitting business license and payroll data for a different company, a marijuana dispensary named Harbor Collective, claiming it was information for Grassroots Resources. The complaint also alleges that the siblings used the loan funds for credit card payments, Venmo account payments, and a $33,500 check to Andrea Cardenas’ Chula Vista City Council campaign account.
The siblings are also charged with grand theft for allegedly misappropriating funds from the Small Business Administration and failing to file tax returns. They are scheduled for arraignment next Thursday in downtown San Diego. If convicted, Jesus Cardenas could face up to four years and four months in prison, while Andrea Cardenas could face up to five years and eight months.
Chula Vista city officials have not commented on the charges. The city charter stipulates that a council position would only become vacant if a council member is convicted of a felony or crime, resigns, or is consistently absent from meetings, among other reasons.
Read more at NBC San Diego.