Developer Samuel Leung pleaded not guilty to charges he funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns in order to secure his $72 million Sea Breeze residential project in Harbor Gateway.
The Torrance-based developer, who appeared in court on Monday, allegedly tried to hide his $600,000 in payments by using the names of more than 100 people he and an associate, Sofia David, had recruited, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported on his court appearance.
The money went the committees backing eight politicians, including Mayor Eric Garcetti. The largest chunk of money went to Councilmember Joe Busciano and former City Councilmember Janice Hahn, who represented the Harbor Gateway neighborhood during the eight-year period.
The alleged secret payments, illegal under California law, were made over the course of eight years while Leung tried to secure various approvals for the 352-unit project, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Both the Planning Commission and Department of City Planning rejected the project, which was slated for a vacant lot at 1309 Sepulveda Boulevard. But that did not derail the project.
In 2015, Garcetti stepped in, and used his power to reduce the number of Council votes needed to approve the project from 12 to 10. With that number reduced, the Council then backed the project, which Leung was involved in as recently as May 2017.
The DA’s office charged Leung and David in February, although David has not been arrested. The district attorney started an investigation into the alleged scheme in the fall, about a year after the Los Angeles Times uncovered it.
Leung was also charged with offering bribes to an unnamed elected official. He faces more than four years in prison if convicted. The next hearing is scheduled for August, according to the Times. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch