Los Angeles councilman faces 34 federal costs in alleged bribery scheme

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Los Angeles councilman faces 34 federal charges in alleged bribery scheme

A federal grand jury filed a complaint on Thursday against the Los Angeles City Council, Jose Huizar, on 34 charges. He claimed to have taken bribes, concealed income, avoided taxes, and lied to investigators.

The 61-year-old Huizar is accused of accepting $ 1.5 million in "illegal financial benefits", the Los Angeles Attorney General said in a statement. He was arrested last month and released on a $ 100,000 bond.

Los Angeles Attorney General Ciaran McEvoy said a previous conspiracy charge against the Racketeer Affected and Corrupt Organizations law was included in the Thursday charge.

A spokeswoman for Huizar did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday evening.

The new allegations include multiple cases of wire transfer fraud, postal fraud, travel between states in favor of extortion, bribery and money laundering, as well as individual cases of structuring cash deposits to hide bribes, false information from a financial institution and false information on federal law enforcement and tax evasion.

The case is based on allegations that Huizar received bribes from an unnamed Chinese billionaire developer and others to positively evaluate the proposed construction projects.

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Huizar chaired the city's powerful planning and land use management committee.

The indictment alleges that the city council received approximately $ 800,000 in benefits from the billionaire, who is designated by the U.S. attorney general as a multinational developer and has a hotel in the Huizar district.

The developer wanted to build a 77-story building in Huizar's district.

Prosecutors alleged last month's criminal complaint that Huizar had received "direct and indirect financial benefits" on more than a dozen trips to Las Vegas casinos, including private jet trips and posh villa stays.

He failed to report his "illegal benefits" in tax returns, the US attorney said.

The grand jury indictment alleges that Huizar operated his office as a "criminal organization," according to the attorney-at-law, and others, including a former deputy mayor, Huizar's special assistant, and a property development consultant, participated.

In May, 33-year-old George Esparza, Huizar's "special assistant" until 2017, agreed to plead guilty and work with investigators about his role in the alleged system.

The FBI ransacked Huizar's home and office in November 2018, and was subsequently deprived of his committee duties.

"During the ransack of his home, agents confiscated approximately $ 129,000 in cash that was kept in Huizar's closet and that he was charged with from a Chinese billionaire and another businessman who asked him for a favor," the prosecutor said in her Statement on Wednesday.

Huizar was to be indicted on Monday by video conference before a federal court.

The indictment is part of a broader investigation into corruption in Los Angeles City Hall that accused five people. Former city councilor Mitch Englander pleaded guilty earlier this month for falsifying facts about travel that he had financed by a businessman and that he was taking to Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

Huizar has represented the city center since 2005.

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