Ex-L.A. Councilman Huizar Sentenced to 13 Years for Taking Bribes From Developers

reprints


Jose Huizar, a former Los Angeles city councilman who was head of its influential planning committee, was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison after leading a criminal enterprise from City Hall and taking bribes from real estate developers. 

U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter gave the sentence to instill respect for anti-corruption laws and because of the “extreme harm” Huizar caused. The disgraced lawmaker was ordered to surrender to authorities on April 30, the Los Angeles Times reported, and to pay nearly $440,000 in restitution to the city and nearly $39,000 to the IRS.

SEE ALSO: Trammell Crow Company Hires Brett Montgomery for SoCal Multifamily Expansion

Following a sweeping years-long corruption investigation, Huizar, 55, pleaded guilty one year ago to racketeering and tax evasion, and admitted that he extorted at least $1.5 million in bribes from developers through a pay-to-play scheme.

Huizar’s criminal enterprise scored cash bribes, prostitution services, lavish gambling trips, and other illicit gifts and campaign donations from developers looking to build high-rise hotels and apartment towers in his Downtown L.A. district. If applicants didn’t pay Huizar under the table or donate to his political campaigns, he would threaten to indefinitely delay their projects through his role as chairman for the council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

“Shiny things were dangled in front of me and I could not resist temptation,” Huizar wrote in a letter to Judge Walter earlier this week. “The money, the fancy dinners, luxury flights. It was there for the taking and I was not strong enough to say no.”

Huizar told the judge that he’s already lost his reputation and his ability to provide for his family, and his actions harmed his family’s future and mental health. 

“My whole life has been turned upside down and I regret ever having departed from the values that brought me to public service in the first place,” he wrote. “I have caused unanticipated collateral damage to people and institutions I care about.”

Through the FBI’s investigation, Huizar and other officials at City Hall involved in the approval process were also arrested and convicted. Former Councilman Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty in 2020 for lying to investigators about a trip in which he received a cash bribe. A former aide to Huizar is awaiting sentencing for racketeering, and former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan is facing bribery, racketeering and wire fraud charges

Development companies, a former lobbyist, a land use consultant and Huizar’s brother have also either pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes. Billionaire developer Wei Huang is still on the run and considered a fugitive. Huang helped secure $600,000 for Huizar to pay off a former aide who accused Huizar of sexual harassment. 

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.