Democrat Party Leader Agrees to Plead Guilty to Fraud & Bribery

April 8, 2023

A former Orange County (OC) Democratic Party leader will face her fate on Feb. 6 now that a plea agreement has been filed involving charges related to legal marijuana.

Political consultant Melahat Rafiei, 45, of Anaheim is accused of attempting to defraud one of her firm’s clients and bribing two Irvine City Council members, which was determined based on a recorded phone call.

“A bond likely will be set for her and future court dates for her will be set as well,” said Ciaran McEvoy, public information officer with the Department of Justice. “A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after Rafiei pleads guilty in this case. Usually, the sentencing hearing is scheduled for a few months after a defendant enters a guilty plea.”

On Jan. 10, Rafiei signed a 22-page plea agreement admitting she is guilty of one count of attempted wire fraud and a felony charge.

U.S. District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha, nominated by former U.S. Pres. Donald Trump, is assigned to the case.

“Any restitution, if applicable, will be determined by the court at her sentencing hearing,” McEvoy told

Rafiei, the founder of a political consulting firm called Progressive Solutions Consulting, formerly served as California Democratic Party secretary and as a Democratic National Committee (DNC) state representative.

“It turns my stomach, because if you look at what progressives were when they started out in the early 1900s, progressives were the ones with the integrity, and they were the ones who were actually demanding honesty in government and demanding equal representation,” said Debbie Peterson, author of “The Happiest Corruption: Sleaze, Lies, & Suicide in a California Beach Town.” “It’s so sad when you look at the way that term, progressive, is perverted.”

The allegations include that Rafiei falsely represented to a commercial cannabis company owner that, in exchange for a payment of at least $300,000, she would work to pass a cannabis-related ordinance in Anaheim that would benefit and be specifically tailored for the victim’s business, according to a Central District of California U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.

Rafiei, however, had reportedly already been working on such an ordinance for other paying clients.

“She was a political consultant, so she saw the dollar signs,” said Peterson, who was also the mayor of Grover Beach in San Luis Obispo for two years. “She saw that there was going to be a lot of money in this, and, to some extent, she was an insider. She was looking for ways to enrich herself.”

Eight months before she was charged, Rafiei denied the allegations and resigned from the Democratic Party on Facebook: “Those reports are largely speculative and often flat-out wrong,” Rafiei posted on May 22, 2022. “I have never attempted to improperly influence any elected official and I am certain the work I undertook to root out corruption was in the best interest of the people of this state and the Democratic Party.”

Rafiei faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

“I think she will see jail time,” Peterson told “She confessed.”