Initially facing a maximum sentence of 50 years in federal prison, former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander agreed Friday to plead guilty to a criminal charge for obstructing a public corruption investigation. Accused of accepting bribes from a local businessman, Englander surrendered to the FBI earlier this month.
Representing Los Angeles Council District 12 in the San Fernando Valley from July 2011 until he abruptly resigned on December 31, 2018, with almost two years left on his term, Englander served as the Council President Pro-Tempore and was on the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, which oversees many of the most significant commercial and residential development projects in the City of Los Angeles. According to the indictment, Englander was soliciting bribes from a local businessman in exchange for political favors.
In June 2017, Englander accepted multiple bribes from the unidentified business during a trip to Las Vegas. In addition to accepting $10,000 in cash, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, hotels rooms, and $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub, the Councilman also received services from a female escort that were paid for by the businessman.
From August 2017 through December 2018, Englander knowingly and willfully falsified and concealed material facts pertaining to this federal public corruption investigation. Specifically, Englander covered up facts that he had accepted items of value during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs.
On February 6, 2018, Englander reportedly instructed the businessman to lie to the FBI, withhold material information from the feds, and how to answer certain questions from the FBI. On February 12, 2018, Englander met the businessman in Englander’s car and, after the Councilman turned up the car stereo music to a loud volume to obstruct possible listening devices, Englander again repeatedly instructed the businessman to lie to the FBI while driving in a circle around the block to conceal their meeting.
Earlier this month, 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 have faced a statutory maximum penalty of 50 years in federal prison.
On Friday, Englander agreed to plead guilty to one count of scheming to falsify material facts. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he faces up to five years in prison under the plea agreement.
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.
Political fundraiser Justin Jangwoo Kim recently agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery offense for coordinating a $500,000 cash payment to a currently unidentified Los Angeles City Councilmember suspected of being Huizar. In addition to pleading guilty, Kim has agreed to cooperate with an ongoing public corruption investigation being conducted by federal authorities.