Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar Arrested, Accused of Taking $1.5 Million in Bribes From Developers

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Councilmember Jose Huizar addresses attendees at Greenland’s Top-off of Tower I at Metropolis Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision for Greenland USA/AP Images)

Finally, the US Attorney’s office confirmed what many political watchers in Los Angeles have assumed for more than a year: the central figure in their probe into corruption at City Hall is City Councilman Jose Huizar. FBI agents arrested Huizar Tuesday morning at his home in Boyle Heights, just outside of downtown pursuant to a criminal complaint charging him with one count of racketeering. In a press release announcing the arrest, the office said Huizar:

“[L]ed a criminal enterprise that used his powerful position at City Hall to solicit and accept lucrative bribes and other financial benefits to enrich himself and his close associates in exchange for Huizar taking official actions favorable to the developers and others who financed and facilitated the bribes.

“[Used] the power of his office to approve or stall large building projects…work[ing] through a web of other corrupt city officials, lobbyists, consultants and developers to line his pockets.”

Over the course of the multi-year scheme, Huizar “agreed to accept at least $1.5 million in illicit benefits” and “violated the public trust to a staggering degree,” according to United States Attorney Nick Hanna.

Huizar, a Princeton-educated lawyer who grew up in the working class Boyle Heights neighborhood after his family immigrated from Mexico, has served on the City Council since 2005.

Multiple Huizar associates have already agreed to plead guilty in the scheme, which is detailed in individual criminal complaints/affidavits and plea agreement and in prior stories here at RedState.

(READ: L.A. Political Fundraiser to Plead Guilty to Facilitating Bribes to City Councilmember and Former LA City Councilman Mitch Englander to Plead Guilty in Corruption Scandal)

In short, authorities allege that:

“The federal investigation has revealed that Huizar operated a pay-to-play scheme in the City, utilizing and commodifying the powerful Council seat of CD-14, whereby he solicited and accepted financial benefits from international (primarily Chinese) and domestic developers with projects in the City in exchange for favorable official actions….

“Huizar operated the ‘CD-14 Enterprise,’ along with co-conspirator members, including “Individual 1,” a former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and former deputy mayor; George Esparza, Huizar’s former special assistant; and real estate development consultant George Chiang. Members and associates of the criminal enterprise referred to Huizar as their ‘boss,’ operated as a criminal organization, and worked together for common purposes.”

The enterprise was facilitated by consultants and lobbyists who were closely affiliated with Huizar, and former Councilman Mitchell Englander also took part. Esparza, Chiang, and Englander have agreed to plead guilty.

The affidavit filed in Huizar’s case lists specific gifts and amounts of cash the corrupt politician received between 2014 and 2018.

One developer, a Chinese billionaire known as Chairman E, provided more than $800,000 in benefit to Huizar, including:

  • $600,000 in collateral to fund a settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Huizar by a former CD-14 staffer
  • cash and casino gambling chips on more than a dozen lavish trips to Las Vegas
  • rides on private jets
  • stays at luxurious casino villas during said Vegas trips, one of which cost over $38,000 per night
  • a trip to Australia

In return, Huizar assisted Chairman E with plans to redevelop his property in Huizar’s district, including building the tallest building west of the Mississippi River and sought “help with a visa application for a company employee, resolving a dispute over a plot of land next to his planned development, and reaching out to a Southern California university about an admissions application for his son.”

A Chinese development company listed as Company D in the affidavit received Huizar’s help in getting approval of a large mixed-use project. That company:

  • hired Huizar “Associate 1” as a consultant to perform work, but the work was actually completed by one of Huizar’s consultants, Chiang.
  • financed part of a Huizar family trip to Chinaa
  • agreed to contribute $100,000 to a political action committee that would benefit Huizar’s wife’s campaign for City Council in 2020 (so she could replace him when he termed out)

A businessman who wanted Huizar’s help in “developing opportunities” provided the Councilman with:

  • a $10,000 monthly cash retainer
  • $10,000 worth of hotel accommodations on 21 separate occasions to facilitate Huizar’s extramarital affair
  • approximately $18,000 in lavish gifts that included suits, shoes, meals, and massages
  • a $500,000 cash bribe to secure Huizar’s help in resolving a labor organization’s appeal of a major real estate development which, when resolved, would save the developer millions of dollars.

A compilation of executives and development companies seeking Huizar’s assistance:

  • made donations to two PACs that would benefit Richelle Huizar’s planned campaign for City Council
  • furnished Huizar with opposition research against two female staffers who had sued Huizar for sexual harassment in 2018

Huizar, 51, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. During a press conference Tuesday, investigators repeatedly stated that their investigation is ongoing.

Jennifer Van Laar



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