Huizar and LA developer deny charges in pay-to-play scheme

Former councilman, real estate exec and ex-deputy mayor plead not guilty to sweeping corruption allegations

Jose Huizar and Raymond Chan (Getty, U.S. Department of Justice)
Jose Huizar and Raymond Chan (Getty, U.S. Department of Justice/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)

Disgraced former Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar intends to fight the government’s sprawling corruption case against him, as does a real estate developer, his company and a former top city official implicated in the alleged pay-to-play scheme.

On Monday, Huizar, developer Dae Yong Lee and his company entered not guilty pleas in federal court in L.A., the U.S. attorney’s office said. Huizar’s plea came first; he denied the government’s 34-count criminal complaint against him, the government said. The appearances were all made through video hookup.

Former L.A. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Raymond Chan also pleaded not guilty to related charges that included racketeering and bribery. The government accuses Huizar and his associates of accepting cash bribes and other payoffs from the developers who sought favorable treatment on real estate projects.

While representatives for Lee’s 940 Hill LLC also entered a formal not guilty plea for the company, still to be arraigned are China-based development firm Shenzhen New World Group and its chairman, Wei Huang.

Lee, Huang, their companies and Chan were indicted Nov. 30.

Huang, who has a residence in San Marino but is now in China, is scheduled to surrender to authorities next week. A warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

By signing up, you agree to TheRealDeal Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Huizar’s criminal trial is scheduled for June 22. Trial dates for the other defendants have not been set. Lee and 940 Hill LLC have another court date scheduled for Tuesday.

Following a two-year probe, the U.S. Attorney’s office in June charged Huizar with running what it called a money-making criminal enterprise through his role as chairman of the Council’s planning and land use management committee. Huizar allegedly solicited roughly $1.5 million in bribes from developers who sought to build projects in Huizar’s downtown district.

Huizar allegedly used some of the payoff to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, and received Katy Perry concert tickets, according to federal prosecutors.

Besides Shenzhen New World and 940 Hill, developers implicated in the case include Shenzhen Hazens and San Francisco-based Carmel Partners. China-based Shenzhen Hazens admitted wrongdoing in October, and agreed to pay a $1 million fine to avoid prosecution. Carmel Partners has not been charged.

Chan, meanwhile, is accused of funneling bribe money from Shenzhen New World to Huizar to help the developer’s planned 77-story DTLA tower project get passed.

Lee, a Bel Air-based developer, and the LLC he incorporated, allegedly provided Huizar $500,000 in order to quell labor opposition to a 20-story tower he wanted to develop in Huizar’s district.