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Feds Add Charges Against Former LA Deputy Mayor Ray Chan And Four Others In City Hall Corruption Case

Suspended L.A. City Councilmember José Huizar leaves federal court in downtown Los Angeles. He appeared along with federal public defenders for a trial setting hearing. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)
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Federal prosecutors have added five new defendants, including a former L.A. deputy mayor and the head of a major Chinese real estate development firm, to the wide-ranging City Hall corruption case centering on former City Councilman José Huizar.

The new defendants face charges including bribery, wire fraud and soliciting campaign donations from foreign nationals.

They are:

  • Raymond Chan, former head of the L.A. Department of Building and Safety and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development under Mayor Eric Garcetti.
  • Wei Huang, the billionaire president of Chinese development firm Shen Zhen New World I, who planned to build a 77-story skyscraper on the site of the L.A. Grand Hotel in downtown L.A.
  • Dae Yong Lee (aka “David Lee”), a developer with plans for a mixed-use building at 940 Hill Street downtown.

Lee and Huang’s companies are also named in the indictment.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said Huizar, Chan and others operated the “CD-14 Enterprise,” turning the city council seat “into a money-making criminal enterprise.” Huizar’s former district included downtown Los Angeles.

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“Powerful developers, operating through well-connected lobbyists, eagerly participated in the schemes to get preferential treatment for their downtown projects,” Hanna said. “This detailed indictment, which lays bare these backroom deals, should prompt a serious discussion as to whether significant reforms are warranted in Los Angeles city government.”

Among the gifts that Huang allegedly provided to Huizar, with Chan acting as facilitator, were 19 all expense-paid trips to Las Vegas between 2013-17, and $600,000 in collateral to allow Huizar to secure a loan to settle a sexual harassment suit brought by a former employee in his city council office. Huizar later stopped making payments on the loan, and most of the collateral went to paying off the balance.

Huizar was arrested in June. He pleaded not guilty in August and is scheduled to face trial next year on 34 counts, including racketeering and money laundering. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office have outlined the alleged operation through court documents, which detail a scheme by Huizar and accomplices to squeeze money out of developers and businesses in exchange for official favors such as greasing the skids for real estate projects in the city council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which Huizar chaired.

So far, five men have pleaded guilty to charges related to the case, including former City Councilman Mitch Englander. In October, a subsidiary of Chinese megadeveloper Shenzhen Hazens agreed to pay more than $1 million to avoid prosecution for gifts and $100,000 in illegal contributions it funneled to Huizar’s wife’s aborted campaign to succeed him on the city council.