La prensa

CV's Cardenas Resigns from Office Amid Criminal Charges

Andrea Cardenas
Author: La Prensa
Created: 20 February, 2024
4 min read

By Arturo Castañares
Chula Vista Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas resigned just one day before a court appearance in a criminal case where she and her brother are charged with a total of 12 felonies related to a COVID-era federal loan.

Cardenas was indicted in November on seven felony counts, while her brother, Jesus Cardenas, was charged with five felony counts over a $176,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan their company applied for and received in early 2021.

On Monday, Councilwoman Cardenas sent a memo to Chula Vista Mayor John McCann and the other three members of the City Council tendering her resignation “effective immediately.”

“In an effort to prioritize my mental health, and the health of my community, I have made the very difficult choice to formally resign effective immediately from my position as Councilmember for our City’s 4th District,” Cardenas wrote. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve my community and work alongside all of you,” she added.

Cardenas and her attorney previously said she had no plans to resign, but Chula Vista Mayor John McCann and Councilman Jose Preciado both called for her resignation in statements made in November.

The San Diego County Democratic Party endorsed Cardenas for re-election in August but voted to rescind their support after her indictment.

La Prensa San Diego independently found then exposed their PPP loan in a February 2023 article after two lengthy phone interviews with Jesus Cardenas where he admitted using employees of a local cannabis dispensary that is a client of his consulting firm to qualify for the loan. Cardenas refused to provide any documents to La Prensa San Diego to substantiate the validity of their loan.

The siblings were later indicted by San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office in November on charges that the two fraudulently used the names of employees of Harbor Collective in San Diego to apply for the loan even though their own company had no employees, then used the loan proceeds to pay their credit card bills and pay off campaign debt from her 2020 election. 

The PPP federal loan program was created to help businesses retain workers during the pandemic. Over 11.8 million loans totaling nearly $790 billion were awarded but were limited to help cover payroll, rent, and utilities. Companies could apply for a loan forgiveness after documenting how they spent the money.

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Over 95% of the businesses eventually qualified for partial or complete loan forgiveness, but none of Grassroots Resource’s loan has yet been forgiven by the federal government.

Cardenas is running for re-election on the March 5th Primary Election ballot along with five other candidates challenging her. The candidates include former Councilman Rudy Ramirez, Chula Vista Elementary School Boardmember Cesar Fernandez, Delfina Gonzalez, Christine Brady, and José Sarmiento.

It is not clear if Cardenas will continue to campaign for re-election after her resignation, or end her campaign just two weeks before the March 5th Primary Election. Mail-in ballots have already been delivered to voters, and several thousand have already been returned to the Registrar of Voters.

If Cardenas were to be one of the top two candidates in the Primary Election, she would continue to the head-to-head matchup in the General Election.

But if she stops campaigning and still makes the General Election, her name would have to appear on the ballot, according to state law.

California Election Code Section 8801 states that “No candidate nominated at any primary election may withdraw as a candidate at the ensuing general election except those candidates permitted to withdraw by this part” which only applies to candidates who die before the election or judicial candidates appointed to another office before the election.

Under this scenario, the other candidate who makes the General Election with Cardenas would be virtually assured of winning the seat in November.

The Cardenas siblings are scheduled to be in court on Tuesday, February 20, for a readiness conference, and are expected to have a preliminary hearing on their charges in March.

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They have each retained separate attorneys but they appear together in court.

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