January 29, 2024

Convicted ex-Los Angeles councilman sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption

Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday in a corruption case involving cash bribes from a local real estate developer.

U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter imposed the sentence after receiving a letter of apology from Huizar, who acknowledged the significant personal cost he had already incurred, including damage to his reputation, loss of ability to provide for his family, and harm to his children's future and mental health.

Huizar, along with two associates, had previously pleaded guilty to charges related to a $500,000 bribe from Southern California real estate developer David Lee.

In addition to bribery, Huizar pleaded guilty to tax evasion and organized crime charges in January of the previous year. As part of the plea agreement, Huizar agreed to serve a minimum of nine years in prison.

Judge Walter justified the 13-year sentence as necessary to uphold respect for the country's anti-corruption laws.

The corruption case centered around Lee's major commercial and residential development project in downtown Los Angeles, which faced obstacles in the city's approval process.

Seeking assistance, Lee approached Huizar, who was the local representative for the project and the head of the city's planning board. Huizar requested a cash bribe, which Lee delivered.

Huizar has been ordered to pay nearly $444,000 in restitution to the city and $39,000 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He is also mandated to surrender to federal authorities on April 30.

Federal prosecutors argued that Huizar exploited his government position, receiving over $1.5 million in various forms, including cash bribes, gambling chips, luxury hotel stays, political contributions, prostitute services, and expensive meals, from developers with projects in the downtown Los Angeles district he oversaw.

Huizar served on the city council from 2005 to 2020 when he was arrested and indicted.

In 2018, the FBI conducted a search of his office at Los Angeles City Hall, and he had been working to facilitate his wife, Richelle Huizar, succeeding him at the end of his term in 2020.

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