“Rampant corruption at City Hall”: Feds charge Jose Huizar with taking bribes from developers

Once powerful politician allegedly operated “criminal enterprise,” and accepted $1.5M in illicit benefits from army of developers, authorities said

Los Angeles /
Jun.June 23, 2020 11:27 AM
Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar (Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar (Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

UPDATED, June 25, 3:24 p.m.: The FBI arrested Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar Tuesday on a federal racketeering charge, culminating a near two-year probe into the lawmaker’s cozy relationship with real estate developers. Authorities said the investigation into Huizar had “pulled back the curtain on rampant corruption at City Hall.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office made the announcement, alleging Huizar — who once led the powerful Planning and Land Use Management committee — operated a “criminal enterprise,” and accepted at least $1.5 million in illicit benefits from an army of developers to help them get their projects approved. Many of those developers, including Shenzhen Hazens, are based in China.

“Councilman Huizar violated the public trust to a staggering degree,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Nick Hanna.

Huizar also allegedly “used the power of his office to approve or stall large building projects,” all part of his “money-making criminal enterprise that shaped the development landscape in Los Angeles,” Hanna said in a news release.

Huizar was taken into custody at his home without incident, authorities said, and was expected to make his initial appearance Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown L.A.

The FBI’s probe of Huizar became public in November 2018, when agents raided his City Council office and home.

In early 2019, a search warrant related to the investigation became public, showing that federal agents had permission to seize documents from two real estate firms and several city officials. Those officials included Councilman Curren Price and a senior aide to Council President Herb Wesson. They have not been charged with any wrongdoing.

In March, federal prosecutors began a flurry of indictments, starting with former City Council member Mitchell Englander, charging him in connection with accepting bribes from real estate developers.

Subsequent announcements revealed plea deals with Englander, real estate appraiser Justin Jangwoo Kim, real estate development consultant George Chiang and former Huizar staffer George Esparza, all linked to Huizar as the unnamed alleged point person of corruption and mastermind.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that federal agents had permission to seize documents from Council President Herb Wesson.


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Former Maywood Mayor Ramon Medina (Facebook)
Was ex-mayor of this small LA County city charged in alleged pay-to-play property scheme? Bingo!
Was ex-mayor of this small LA County city charged in alleged pay-to-play property scheme? Bingo!
Mitchell Englander (Getty)
Paying for his play: Ex-LA councilman sentenced in City Hall corruption scandal
Paying for his play: Ex-LA councilman sentenced in City Hall corruption scandal
Onni Group president Rossano de Cotiis and a rendering of Times Mirror Square
Onni Group’s 1.1K-unit Times Mirror Square project nears final approval
Onni Group’s 1.1K-unit Times Mirror Square project nears final approval
Mitchell Englander (Getty)
No jail time for ex-LA councilmember would be “two-tier” justice system: prosecutors
No jail time for ex-LA councilmember would be “two-tier” justice system: prosecutors
Ron Zeff's Carmel Partners has agreed to pay a $1 million fine in connection with the Jose Huizar scandal. Zeff split image at far left and right; Huizar is in middle. (Multi Family Forum, Jose Huziar, SCB)
Carmel Partners agrees to $1M fine in connection with Huizar scandal
Carmel Partners agrees to $1M fine in connection with Huizar scandal
From left, Michael Rosenfeld and Century Plaza, Jose Huizar and City Hall, Jeff Bezos and 1801 Angelo Drive (Getty Images)
LA’s biggest real estate stories of 2020
LA’s biggest real estate stories of 2020
Photo illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal (Getty, iStock)
The secrets still to come in the FBI’s Jose Huizar investigation
The secrets still to come in the FBI’s Jose Huizar investigation
Jose Huizar and Raymond Chan (Getty, U.S. Department of Justice)
Huizar and LA developer deny charges in pay-to-play scheme
Huizar and LA developer deny charges in pay-to-play scheme
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...