On Tuesday, the FBI arrested Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar. Huizar chaired the powerful Planning and Land Use Committee. In a press conference this morning, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna announced a 116-page indictment accusing the councilman of running a pay-to-play scheme, in which he took big bribes from developers to make sure their projects got favorable treatment during the city approval process.
“Essentially he’s accused of what they refer to as running a widespread criminal enterprise,” says Jon Regardie, writer for LA Magazine. “He’s been charged with racketeering and violating the RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization] statute. … Investigators called it a ‘well-oiled quid-pro-quo.’”
Federal affidavits report that Huizar accepted $250,000 in casino chips, as well as trips to Las Vegas and Australia.
Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor and former LA City Councilman who served with Huizar, calls Huizar an “extremely smart guy.” He says Huizar’s intelligence was shown in the complicated web of allegations.
“The conduct laid out in the complaint today constitutes — in my view — the most significant political corruption scandal in modern LA history,” Weiss says. “It seems like he was operating his council office as a basic crime syndicate.”
Federal prosecutors have been circling Huizar since the feds raided his offices in 2018. Former City Councilman Mitch Englander has already pleaded guilty in another related corruption case. A number of people accused in the case against Huizar have taken plea deals and turned state’s evidence against the councilman.
Huizar has faced calls of resignation from other LA political leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA City Council President Nury Martinez.
If found guilty, Huizar could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Christian Bordal