Political fundraiser to plead guilty to bribery allegedly involving L.A. City Council member

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A political fundraiser will plead guilty to a bribery charge for coordinating a $500,000 payment in 2017 to gain the help of a Los Angeles City Council member in advancing a major real estate development, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

In addition to the plea, Justin Jangwoo Kim, 53, agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation of public corruption, the office said.

Federal prosecutors in the Kim case did not identify the council member or say whether the person was still in office. Last week, former Councilman Mitch Englander surrendered to FBI agents, charged with trying to cover up gifts given to him during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

The person who gave him the gifts was only identified as Businessperson A, who operates companies involving major development projects.

In the Kim case, the elected official is only identified in court documents as “Councilmember A,” who was a member of the city’s Planning and Land use Management Committee. Kim, a real estate appraiser and consultant, was a top fundraiser for Councilmember A and a close political ally of a member of the councilmember’s staff, court documents said.

Prosecutors said Kim admitted he supported a plan by Councilmember A and a council staffer to ensure the election of a relative of the councilmember.

“Kim was motivated to help Councilmember A maintain power because Kim would be poised to financially benefit from potential illicit schemes in Councilmember A’s district,” prosecutors said.

The bribery scheme developed in 2016 when a labor organization filed an appeal that claimed a real estate project violated the California Environmental Quality Act. That appeal prevented the project from progressing through processes requiring planning committee and City Council approval, prosecutors said.

A person identified as “Developer C” then allegedly called Kim and asked him to obtain Councilmember A’s assistance with the appeal on that project.

Kim, the developer and the unidentified councilmember met on Sept. 1, 2016, to resolve the issue, prosecutors said. Eventually a $500,000 bribe was negotiated, they said.

Prosecutors noted that while Kim agreed to plead guilty to the bribery offense, he did not to admit all of the allegations in a charging document. He is scheduled to appear in federal court on March 31 to enter the guilty plea. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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