Jim Ledford

Jim Ledford

LOS ANGELES — The arraignment hearing for former Palmdale mayor Jim Ledford is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Ledford faces five felony counts in the case, in which he and two co-defendants are accused of conspiring to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in NASA funds from a Palmdale-based nonprofit educational organization the co-defendants ran.

Prosecutors allege Ledford was paid $60,000 a year without performing any substantial work for the organization, the AERO Institute.

The court proceedings have entailed a series of delays from the beginning.

Ledford pleaded not guilty to the charges on Aug. 22, 2018, more than a year after they were initially filed on June 21, 2017. Additional charges were filed in January 2018.

He was originally charged with criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest in voting in 2012 when Palmdale City Council voted to award a seven-year city contract worth up to $3.9 million to Kimberly Shaw. He also was charged with three counts of perjury for allegedly failing to report income from the Institute on financial disclosure statements.

In January 2018, an additional misdemeanor charge was filed against Ledford, accusing him of using an official position for personal gain.

The amended complaint accuses him of voting in 2016 to sell the building containing the Palmdale and Antelope Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce offices to the Institute, which prosecutors say was secretly paying him more than $60,000 a year.

His co-defendants, former AERO Institute executive director Susan Miller and former AERO Institute president and city consultant Shaw, also originally pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

However, both pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to probation.

Miller pleaded guilty to one count of misappropriation of public funds and was sentenced to two years probation on Jan. 16, 2020. Two other criminal counts for conspiracy and grand theft by embezzlement were dismissed.

Shaw pleaded guilty on Jan. 21, 2020, to one felony count of filing a false tax return for 2013 and was sentenced to formal probation for three years. Additional counts of conspiracy, grand theft by embezzlement of public funds and misappropriation of public funds were dismissed.

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