Ex-Councilman Jose Huizar Pleads Guilty To RICO Charges

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Former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges and admitted to leading a pay-for-play scheme in downtown L.A.

The agreement was filed for the 54-year-old ex-councilman on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and one count of tax evasion.

“Huizar has admitted to orchestrating a racketeering scheme that enriched himself and others as they sought to monopolize political power at the expense of Los Angeles residents,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said. “This is one of the most wide-ranging and brazen public corruption cases ever uncovered in this district, demonstrating that our office will use all the tools of the federal government to vigorously prosecute crooked politicians whose betrayal of the public trust significantly erodes confidence in our local government.”

During his time in office, Huizar was chair of the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee. That is where Huizar used his power to present motions, leverage his vote on projects, approve projects and negotiate with labor unions in accordance to the benefits he received through Chinese real estate developer Wei Huang.

While Huang remains a fugitive, the Shen Zhen New World company was found guilty on eight charges for its role in the scheme.

Huizar also admitted to taking $600,000 in bribes from the Chinese real estate developer, using a majority of the money to settle a pending sexual harassment lawsuit against him.

“I want to apologize to my family, constituents, and to the City of Los Angeles,” Huizar said in a statement Friday. “My actions were not acceptable, and I will accept the consequences for my actions. It is time for healing. My family needs some healing, and I hope that my acceptance of responsibility will allow the City to heal from the harm that my actions have caused.”

In October 2022, Huizar’s brother, Salvador Huizar, pleaded guilty to accepting cash from the councilman and lying to investigators about his role in the pay-for-play scheme. Salvador would deposit the money into his own account, then return the same amount of money to the councilman through checks, said to be paying for his “expenses.”

In November 2018, Huizar’s Boyle Heights home was raided by the FBI, where they found approximately $129,000 in cash.

Charged separately in 2020, former Los Angeles City Councilman As part of the investigation, former L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander pleaded guilty on corruption charges related to the same investigation. It was found that Englander accepted money and gifts from the Chinese businessmen, as well. Englander vacated his seat in 2018 with two years remaining in his term.

While Huizar’s sentencing date is scheduled for April 3, District Judge John F. Walter said he would provide a sentence before that date. Huizar seeks a sentence that is no less than nine years in federal prison.

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