Read José Huizar's Plea Agreement
As part of a plea agreement, former Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges of racketeering and tax evasion. The agreement includes Huizar promising not to ask for less than nine years in prison, while prosecutors agree not to request a sentence longer than 13 years.
Why It Matters
Huizar pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes from developers with projects in Huizar's District 14 in exchange for helping the developers move their projects along. This included City Council votes, either expediting or delaying the approval process, exerting pressure on other city officials, and negotiating with and pressuring labor unions.
The crimes outlined in the agreement began by February 2013 and lasted through July 2020. Those involved received bribes, committed extortion and money laundering, and were involved in mail and wire fraud. They also obstructed justice, with Huizar committing witness tampering.
The others who were part of the criminal conspiracy laid out in the plea agreement include lobbyists, consultants, and other city officials and staff.
According to the plea deal, other financial benefits received by those officials include consulting and retainer fees, favorable loans, gambling chips at casinos, political contributions, flights on both private jets and commercial airlines, luxury hotel stays, meals, spa services, tickets to various events, escort and prostitution services, and other gifts.
The L.A. Grand Hotel Conspiracy
The majority of the bribes Huizar received were for a project involving the L.A. Grand Hotel, according to the agreement. Its owner, Chinese billionaire Wei Huang, wanted to redevelop the hotel into a 77-story skyscraper, which would make it the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Huizar and associates went on at least 20 Las Vegas casino trips funded by Huang — those trips are valued at more than $1.1 million, with nearly $200,000 in casino chips provided to Huizar, the agreement says, adding that Huang also provided $600,000 to help settle a sexual harassment lawsuit during Huizar's 2013 re-election campaign.
Huizar agreed to pay a total of nearly $1.9 million in restitution to the city of Los Angeles and back taxes to the IRS, although that amount could change. He also agreed to forfeit assets acquired as a result of his crimes, including $129,000 in cash that he had hidden at his home made up of money made from the casino chips provided by Huang, as well as cash received from an unnamed businessperson.
A Los Angeles Times reporter tweeted that Huizar handed journalists a note on his way out of court on Friday that said, "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 ... I hope that my acceptance of responsibility will allow the City to heal from the harm that my actions have caused."
The federal government has agreed to move to dismiss the remaining counts and the underlying indictment in the case at the time of sentencing. However, the court may still consider the dismissed charges while determining how to apply sentencing guidelines. The maximum penalty Huizar could face would be 25 years in prison and a fine of at least $350,000.
Huizar and the involved attorneys signed the agreement on Wednesday. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled.