Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Ex-Chula Vista Councilmember's brother gets 180 days in custody for grand theft

Chula Vista City Hall, October 21, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
Chula Vista City Hall, October 21, 2021.

Political consultant Jesus Cardenas, who pleaded guilty to grand theft charges along with his sister, ex-Chula Vista City Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas, for fraudulently obtaining pandemic relief funds and unemployment benefits, was sentenced Wednesday to 180 days in custody and two years of probation.

Cardenas' custodial term will include 45 days in the work furlough program, with the remainder to be served on home detention. He also was ordered to pay over $200,000 in restitution to the Small Business Administration and the state's Employment Development Department.

Prosecutors say Cardenas, 41, and his sister fraudulently obtained a $176,227 Paycheck Protection Program loan in early 2021 intended for their firm, Grassroots Resources. The money was meant to support payroll for 34 employees, most of whom actually worked for a marijuana dispensary that was a Grassroots client.


The pair then used the funds on personal expenses, including a $33,500 check to Andrea Cardenas' Chula Vista City Council campaign account and $21,000 that Jesus Cardenas owed American Express, prosecutors said.

Additional charges were added later for taking funds from the Employment Development Department while both were employed.

The pair pleaded guilty last month, and attorneys for both siblings have stated that they will petition for the charges to be reduced to misdemeanors in the future.

Andrea Cardenas, 32, who resigned from her council seat last month, is scheduled for sentencing in August.

As part of their pleas, six other felony counts of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to file tax returns were dismissed.


Cardenas' defense attorney, Fernanda Ezquerro, told San Diego Superior Court Judge Rachel Cano on Wednesday that her client is "deeply remorseful" and "does recognize this was a mistake and a serious one."

Ezquerra said financial struggles amid the pandemic played a role in the crimes.

"Like any business owner and individual, they also went through financial hardship during the COVID pandemic, which is what brought on the instant offense," she said.

Deputy District Attorney Chandelle Boyce said that what happened was not a one-time error in judgment, but "a calculated series of decisions to steal that spanned several years."

Boyce characterized Jesus Cardenas as having a "dominant role in these schemes," describing him as the consulting firm's leader who "assigned tasks to Andrea Cardenas and then she carried out those tasks."

The prosecutor said, "When these crimes came to light, their actions have now contributed to eroding the public's trust in our local government officials."