There was another bombshell Thursday into the federal probe of real estate developers bribing Los Angeles city officials — a guilty plea from a longtime L.A. real estate appraiser on one count of federal bribery relating to a developer’s half-a-million dollar payoff.
Appraiser and consultant Justin Jangwoo Kim, a 52-year-old former resident of Hancock Park, pled guilty after federal investigators uncovered evidence that Kim was the middleman of a $500,000 bribe from an unidentified developer to an unidentified member of L.A. City Council, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement.
The bribe was apparently intended so that the City Council member, who was part of the city’s Planning Land Use and Management Committee, would look favorably upon an unidentified project that was under community and legal scrutiny. Per Kim’s plea, an organized labor group was challenging the project on grounds that it ran afoul of California’s Environmental Quality Act.
The plea agreement describes Kim as a prolific local political fundraiser who was working closely not just with the City Council member, but a member of the council’s staff who Kim was helping groom to be the council member’s successor.
As part of his plea deal Kim will be part of an “ongoing public corruption investigation being conducted by federal authorities,” according to the announcement.
The appraiser’s guilty plea comes amid a wide ranging look into potential criminal activity between real estate developers and L.A. city officials, a probe that became public in November 2018 when federal officials raided the office of Jose Huizar, then the chairperson of the planning committee.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Huizar spent much of 2018 trying to get his wife, Richelle Huizar elected to his seat. She later dropped out of the race after the FBI raided their home.
The first indictment related to the probe was announced last week, when federal prosecutors made public a charge of seven counts of perjury against former City Council and planning committee member Mitchell Englander.
Englander allegedly tried to convince a real estate developer, who it turned out was cooperating with federal authorities, to lie about the developer paying for a lavish Las Vegas junket taken by Englander that included thousands of dollars for lodging, restaurants, gambling, bottle service, and escorts. Englander pled not guilty to all counts, and was arraigned last week.