Huizar indicted on 34 counts related to bribery and corruption scheme

Indictment alleges “402 overt acts” to further a criminal enterprise

TRD LOS ANGELES /
Jul.July 31, 2020 10:00 AM
Jose Huizar (Getty)
Jose Huizar (Getty)

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted once-influential Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar on 34 charges related to a $1.5 million bribery and corruption scheme he allegedly ran through his office at City Hall.

The indictment alleges “402 overt acts that Huizar and his co-conspirators committed to further their criminal enterprise…” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Huizar is set to be arraigned on Monday.

Federal prosecutors allege Huizar leveraged his position at City Hall “to enrich himself and his close associates.” Huizar supported real estate developers and their projects up for consideration at the City Council in exchange for roughly $1.5 million in bribes and other gifts, prosecutors allege.

The laundry list of charges include 12 counts of honest services wire fraud, six counts of bribery and five counts of money laundering. Huizar also got four counts of traveling interstate in aid of racketeering and a count of making false statements to federal law enforcement, among other charges.

The FBI arrested Huizar in late June on one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The federal government has been investigating Huizar since at least 2018, when agents raided his home and City Hall office.

Huizar is being represented by attorneys from the federal public defender’s office, according to the L.A. Times. They declined to comment on the indictment.

The indictment has some new details on the criminal enterprise that the federal government alleges Huizar ran as Councilmember for Downtown L.A. and chairman of the Council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Committee.

Huizar allegedly accepted more than $800,000 in benefits from an individual called Chairman E, described as a “Chinese billionaire who runs a multinational development firm and who owns a hotel in Huizar’s district.” Prior reporting from The Real Deal identified that firm as Shenzhen New World Group, helmed by billionaire Wei Huang. The firm filed plans to build a 77-story tower in Huizar’s district in 2018. (Despite being a Chinese conglomerate, Shenzen New World also received coronavirus relief funds in the U.S. totaling between $4 million and $10 million.)

The $800,000 figure included $600,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit filed by a former staffer against Huizar, which was detailed in a plea by former Huizar staffer George Esparza, who later became deputy mayor.

Other developers have also been ensnared by the scandal. Carmel Partners placed a senior executive, Neils Cotter, on leave following allegations that linked the firm to $125,000 in bribes to Huizar.

Huizar is the fifth person charged in the investigation, along with Esparza, former staffer George Chiang, fundraiser Justin Kim, and former Councilmember Mitchell Englander.

All four of the others pled guilty to various charges earlier this year.

The charges against Huizar hold maximum sentences of between five and 30 years in prison each. The charge of making false statements to a financial institution are on the upper end of that spectrum. RICO conspiracy and two other counts carry 20 year maximum sentences.

 

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