Developer admits to campaign donations scheme tied to Sea Breeze apartment project

Samuel Leung reimbursed donors who gave money to committees linked to LA politicians

Rendering of the Sea Breeze project and Los Angeles City Hall (Getty)
Rendering of the Sea Breeze project and Los Angeles City Hall (Getty)

A Torrance developer pleaded guilty to his role in a campaign donation scheme that sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to committees supporting eight Los Angeles politicians — including Mayor Eric Garcetti — while the developer’s multifamily development project was under review.

Samuel Leung, 70, admitted to a felony conspiracy count, saying he reimbursed campaign donors from January 2009 through February 2015 for contributions made to politicians while his 352-unit Sea Breeze project in Harbor Gateway neighborhood was under review at City Hall, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Leung was sentenced to 5 years probation and must complete 500 hours of community service. He faced a maximum sentence of nearly 5 years in prison, according to the Times. Leung also agreed to pay an undetermined sum in restitution to the city, and has put $2.5 million in an escrow account while the city Ethics Commissions determines the amount of restitution he owes.

The guilty plea comes the same week that a federal grand jury indicted two real estate developers, their companies and a former L.A. deputy mayor on racketeering charges in connection with the pay-to-play scandal centered on former City Councilman Jose Huizar.

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In the Leung case, the L.A. County district attorney’s office said he illegally donated “hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of eight local politicians that led to the approval” of the Sea Breeze project.

A 2016 Times investigation found that more than 100 people linked to Leung donated a collective $600,000 to local elected officials. The district attorney’s office said Leung recruited these people to make the donations and “reimbursed many of the donors’ contributions.”

It is illegal under California law to contribute money to a political campaign using someone else’s name.
The Times interviewed 12 people who were allegedly part of the scheme and all but one denied any contributions or said they didn’t remember making any donations related to Leung. One person said Leung reimbursed her for at least one donation.

The Sea Breeze project was rejected by the Planning Commission. Garcetti moved to overrule their decision, and the project was approved in early 2015, according to the report. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch