Former L.A. councilman Jose Huizar pleads not guilty to federal bribery, fraud charges

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Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar is shown at a meeting in February 2020. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar is shown at a meeting in February 2020. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Former City Council member Jose Huizar pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges that he took bribes to help developers win favors for large building projects in the city’s burgeoning downtown district.

Huizar entered the plea to a new racketeering indictment that added additional charges. The 41-count complaint includes allegations of bribery, honest services fraud and money laundering.

Huizar was arrested in June on allegations that he masterminded a $1.5 million pay-to-play scheme tied to the approval of developments.

They included a 77-story tower in Huizar’s district that would have been the largest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River. The developer, who already had a hotel in the district, was accused of providing cash and benefits worth $800,000 to Huizar and others that included a dozen trips to Las Vegas casinos and funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against the councilman.

Huizar left office earlier this year and pleaded not guilty to the earlier 34-count indictment. His trial was set for June 22.

The superseding indictment also names Raymond Chan, a deputy mayor who oversaw economic development for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and 2017. He also is a former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.

His attorney previously said Chan will plead not guilty.

Others indicted include the billionaire chairman of a Chinese real estate company and a Bel Air developer.

The case has already resulted in guilty pleas from a former Huizar aide, a City Hall lobbyist and two real estate consultants.

In another case, former City Council member Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty in March 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.

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