Former LA Councilmember José Huizar pleads guilty to racketeering, tax evasion in corruption case

Marc Cota-Robles Image
Saturday, January 21, 2023
Former LA Councilman José Huizar pleads guilty in corruption case
EMBED <>More Videos

Former L.A. City Councilman José Huizar pleaded guilty to two federal charges stemming from a City Hall-based bribery and money laundering scheme in which he took more than $1.5 million in cash, gambling trips and escorts in exchange for his support of a planned downtown hotel project.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar pleaded guilty Friday to two federal charges stemming from a City Hall-based bribery and money laundering scheme in which he took more than $1.5 million in cash, gambling trips and escorts in exchange for his support of a planned downtown hotel project.

Huizar pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion in downtown L.A.

The charges could carry a sentence of up to 25 years behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The plea agreement, which was filed Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, says the ex-councilman agreed to a prison sentence of no less than nine years, but prosecutors said they will request a 13-year term in federal prison.

It all stems from an elaborate and multi-year criminal enterprise, as described by the prosecution.

Crimes included a $1.5 million dollar pay-to-play scheme, in which real estate developers delivered bribes, paid cash and campaign donations in exchange for help getting building projects through the city's approval process.

At various times, the former councilman also accepted gambling trips and escorts in exchange for his support.

Along with the expected federal prison sentence, Huizar will also be ordered to pay restitution of about $1.85 million.

"I want to apologize to my family, constituents, and to the City of Los Angeles. My actions were not acceptable, and I will accept the consequences for my actions," a statement from Huizar said.

"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."

U.S. District Judge John Walter scheduled sentencing for April 3.

The judge made clear, whatever the sentence is, he will not be eligible for parole.

During the Friday morning hearing, it took prosecutors nearly 90 minutes to read the factual basis for the plea deal, outlining the intricacies of the pay-to-play scheme that prompted an FBI probe and cast a shadow of corruption over Los Angeles City Hall.

Walter asked Huizar a series of questions before accepting the plea deal, asking the ex-politician if he committed the acts being alleged.

"Yes I did, your honor," he replied.

Huizar's co-defendant, former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, is scheduled to go on trial next month on charges of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Before Huizar signed his plea deal, he and Chan were set to go on trial together Feb. 21.

City News Service contributed to this report.