Former LA City Councilman Mitchell Englander pleads guilty to obstruction of justice

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Former City Councilman Mitchell Englander. Photo credit: KCET

Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander has agreed to plead guilty to federal obstruction of justice. It’s part of a wider, ongoing investigation into a pay to play scheme at LA City Hall. Englander accepted envelopes of cash, hotel rooms, and female escort services during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, according to the indictment. Those bribes were allegedly provided by an unnamed businessman who prosecutors say was looking to increase his business opportunities in the city. 

Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor and city councilman for the 5th District, says Englander decided to plead guilty because “there was no way he was going to skate at trial.”

“What he pleaded guilty to relates to this crazy saga of an all expenses paid trip to Vegas, and then one to the Morongo Casino in the desert,” says Weiss. “When the FBI spoke with him on three separate occasions at the U.S. attorney's office, Englander lied on all three occasions.”

John Lee, who worked as chief of staff for Englander, is now the councilman for District 12. Lee has said he went on a trip to Vegas and did everything in his power to reimburse the businessman who doled out those favors. 

Weiss says Lee’s explanation is bizarre: “Why are you going on this sex and drugs and rock and roll trip to Vegas, whether or not you pay for it?”

FBI agents also have a case involving allegations that another city councilman attempted to secure $500,000 in bribes from a real estate developer. The government's description of that person made it clear it's Councilman Jose Huizar, whose home and offices were raided by the FBI in 2018.

“It seems pretty clear that the FBI, the U.S. attorney, already have City Hall staff members, developers and lobbyists all lined up, as well as financial evidence and recorded phone calls against that council member,” says Weiss. “So that council member is in extraordinary trouble, and I would be shocked if there isn't a case brought against that person. And for all we know, that person is in turn rolling on others.”

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