The brother of former Los Angeles City Council member José Huizar agreed Wednesday to plead guilty in a federal case involving Huizar, who’s charged with taking more than $1.5 million in bribes.
Salvador Huizar, 57, acknowledged in a plea agreement filed in court that at least 20 times between 2013 and 2018, he took envelopes of cash from Huizar and then returned the money by writing checks or making electronic payments in the same amount directly to his brother or to cover his brother’s expenses, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
According to the plea agreement, whenever Salvador Huizar asked his brother about the money, he was told it was better that he didn’t know the source.
Huizar also acknowledged that he lied to federal investigators about the cash, “including to a federal grand jury and most recently two weeks ago during an interview with FBI agents and federal prosecutors,” the statement said.
Huizar will plead guilty in the coming weeks to making a false statement to a federal agency, and could face up to five years in federal prison.
Prosecutors allege José Huizar is charged with masterminding a $1.5 million pay-to-play scheme tied to the approval of downtown developments while he chaired the city’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
He and former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan are scheduled to face trial on Feb, 21 on federal charges that include racketeering conspiracy and bribery. They have pleaded not guilty.
They’re among several people who were charged in a sweeping City Hall corruption probe.
In June, a real estate developer and his company were found guilty of bribery for giving $500,000 in cash to José Huizar and his special assistant in exchange for favors.
The assistant, George Esparza, and a Huizar fundraiser, Justin Kim, had pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2020.
Another developer, Wei Huang, also is charged with bribing the former councilman in connection with another project. His trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 25, although he remains a fugitive, federal prosecutors said.
In another case, former City Council member Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty in 2020 to obstructing an FBI investigation into his acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars in cash, escort services and other perks from a businessman involved in major developments. He was sentenced last year to 14 months in federal prison.