L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar charged in 34-count indictment in ongoing corruption probe

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Federal prosecutors charged Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar in a 34-count indictment unsealed Thursday as part of an ongoing public corruption probe.

Huizar, 51, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act upon his arrest by the FBI last month. The newly unsealed indictment includes counts of bribery and money laundering among several other criminal charges and details 42 alleged acts of corruption by Huizar.

The Democrat has represented Council District 14, which includes downtown Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and parts of northeast Los Angeles including Eagle Rock and Highland Park.

“Mr. Huizar was busy enjoying the fruits of his alleged corruption while his criminal enterprise sold the city to the highest bidder behind the backs of taxpayers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a June 23 statement announcing his arrest.

Huizar is expected to appear for his arraignment in U.S. District Court via video conference Aug. 3.

Prosecutors allege Huizar conspired with developers while chairing the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee. He is accused of accepting at least $1.5 million in “illicit financial benefits,” according to federal prosecutors.

That allegedly includes more than $800,000 from a Chinese billionaire who owns a hotel in Huizar’s district. As part of their deal, the billionaire allegedly gave Huizar $600,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by one of his former staffers, prosecutors said.

In November 2018, the FBI executed search warrants at Huizar’s home and city offices, and they seized about $129,000 in cash found inside the councilman’s closet, prosecutors allege.

According to the newly unsealed indictment, Huizar received the money from the billionaire and another businessman seeking illegal favors.

A former general manager of the L.A. Department of Building and Safety was also involved in Huizar’s illegal activities, federal prosecutors allege.

George Esparza, Huizar’s former special assistant, and a real estate development consultant named George Chiang, have both pleaded guilty in the corruption probe. L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a felony count of scheming to falsify material facts earlier this month.

He allegedly accepted gifts such as $10,000 in cash inside an envelope and a Las Vegas hotel room stay from a businessman, and then lied about it to the FBI, federal prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, people involved in Huizar’s alleged criminal enterprise referred to him as their “boss.” The accused co-conspirators practiced extortion, bribery and honest services fraud to fulfill political goals and make personal profits, prosecutors said.

They also allegedly concealed the bribes and other acts of corruption from the public and the government, hiding it from other city officials and law enforcement, according to prosecutors.

Huizar faces criminal charges including 12 counts of honest services wire fraud; two counts of honest services mail fraud; four counts of traveling interstate in aid of racketeering; six counts of bribery; five counts of money laundering; one count of structuring cash deposits to conceal bribes; one count of making a false statement to a financial institution; one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement; and one count of tax evasion.

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