Political fundraiser admits to bribing LA City Councilmember

The Councilmember reportedly agreed to help the developer’s real estate project in exchange for a $500,000 bribe.

Image Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

Admitting to tax evasion and lying to FBI agents, a political fundraiser recently agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery offense for coordinating a $500,000 cash payment to a Los Angeles City Councilmember. In addition to pleading guilty, the fundraiser has agreed to cooperate with an ongoing public corruption investigation being conducted by federal authorities.

On September 1, 2016, political fundraiser Justin Jangwoo Kim met with an unnamed L.A. City Councilmember and a developer at a Korean karaoke bar. The Councilmember reportedly agreed to help the developer’s real estate project in exchange for a $500,000 bribe.

In early 2017, the developer gave Kim $400,000 in cash in a paper bag intended for the Councilmember. Before giving the paper bag to an employee on the council member’s staff, Kim kept some cash for himself for facilitating the bribe payment.

After the Councilmember fulfilled his end of the deal, the developer gave the remaining $100,000 to Kim and asked him to give it to the Councilmember. Instead, Kim took the $100,000 in cash and kept it for himself.

According to the Justice Department, the Councilman was a member of the City’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) and planned to have a relative replace him on the City Council after his term expired.

In November 2018, FBI agents raided the home and offices of L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar, who was chairman of PLUM at the time. Huizar’s wife, Richelle, had been campaigning to fill her husband’s council seat when his term expires this year, but she dropped out of the race following the FBI raids.

Kim recently agreed to plead guilty to one count of federal program bribery. In addition to pleading guilty, Kim has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in an ongoing public corruption investigation.

Earlier this month, former Los Angeles city councilman Mitchell Englander surrendered to FBI agents and was charged with one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements, and three counts of witness tampering. If convicted of the seven charges in the indictment, Englander would face a statutory maximum penalty of 50 years in federal prison.

If convicted, Kim could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Besides pleading guilty to coordinating a $500,000 cash bribe to an L.A. City Councilmember, Kim also admitted in his plea agreement to making false statements to FBI investigators and filing false income tax records in 2017.


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