Justin Jangwoo Kim, a political fundraiser, has agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery charge for helping a real estate developer pay off an LA City Councilmember. Prosecutors say that helped pave the way for a major construction project. It’s the latest development in an ongoing corruption investigation at LA City Hall. Last week, former Councilman Mitchell Englander was indicted on charges that he tried to cover up cash payments, female escort services, and lavish trips he allegedly received from another developer.
Kim has also agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into corruption at City Hall, according to his plea agreement. Court documents state that Kim helped facilitate the payment of a $500,000 bribe to a City Councilmember prosecutors have referred to as “Councilmember A.” In 2017, Kim met with the developer, who gave him $400,000 in cash in a paper bag. Kim gave most of it to one of Councilmember A’s staffers, and kept some for himself as a fee. A few months later, Kim told the developer that the councilmember had asked for the remaining $100,000 and kept that too.
Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor and City Councilman for the fifth District, says all of the players in this scheme will be identified soon.
“My reading between the lines of this week's charge and last week's case, the Englander case is that the councilmember in this case has in all likelihood also already agreed to cooperate, because if that person weren't signed up as a cooperator, you probably would've just charged them today too,” Weiss says. “The impression one gets from what the federal authorities have done last week and this week is it's a very deliberate attempt to set in motion charges against, I think, multiple elected officials in City Hall.”
Despite court closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, Weiss says that this case will continue to move.
“I think with unveiling this today, they made it very clear today that U.S. federal law enforcement is still open for business.”