A former Los Angeles city councilman pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he obstructed an investigation into whether he took thousands of dollars, female escort services and other gifts from a businessman involved in major developments.
Mitch Englander, 49, surrendered to FBI agents Monday morning to face arraignment. He is charged with one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements and three counts of witness tampering, prosecutors said.
He is expected to be released on $50,000 bond.
Englander, a Republican, represented a council district from July 2011 until he resigned on Dec. 31, 2018.
Englander’s attorney Janet Levine said her client is “proud of the work he has done to serve his community.” He is a volunteer reserve Los Angeles police officer; the department has placed him on “inactive status.”
“Despite this setback, with the support of his family and friends, he looks forward to continuing his lifelong contributions to the community that has given him so much,” she said in a statement.
Englander’s arrest is part of a larger public corruption investigation into the Los Angeles City Council, the indictment states. He is the first person to be publicly charged in the case.
Prosecutors allege he tried to cover up gifts given to him during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs by a person identified in the indictment as “Businessperson A,” who operates companies involving major development projects.
“Two months after the Las Vegas trip, Businessperson A began cooperating with the FBI in a public corruption investigation focused on suspected `pay-to-play’ schemes involving Los Angeles public officials,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release said.
In Las Vegas, Englander allegedly received an envelope containing $10,000 in cash, services from a female escort, hotel rooms, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub and a $2,481 dinner. In Palm Springs, he allegedly received $5,000 in an envelope.
The indictment alleges that after discovering the investigation, Englander made multiple efforts to get Businessperson A to give false information to the FBI and also directly lied to the FBI and federal prosecutors.
Authorities allege that Englander tried to evade detection by using a confidential messaging app. He also allegedly raised the volume of music in “Businessperson A’s” car so any listening devices wouldn’t catch their conversation and told the person to drive in a circle around the block to hide their meeting.