Former LA Councilman pleads guilty to obstructing federal corruption probe

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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Image Credit: Los Angeles Times

Accused of obstructing a federal investigation into the former Los Angeles City Councilman accepting cash, female escort services, hotel rooms, and expensive meals in exchange for political favors, the ex-councilman pleaded guilty Tuesday to obstruction of justice.

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, former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell 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 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.

In March, 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. Later that month, he agreed to plead guilty to one count of scheming to falsify material facts.

On Tuesday, Englander pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of scheming to falsify material facts. His sentencing is currently scheduled for September 28.

On March 19, political fundraiser Justin Jangwoo Kim agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery offense for coordinating a $500,000 cash payment to a Los Angeles City Councilmember. Kim is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter on August 17.

On May 13, real estate development consultant George Chiang agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute. That same month, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar’s special assistant George Esparza pleaded guilty to his participation in the pay-to-play bribery scheme involving Los Angeles City Councilmen. In his plea agreement, Esparza also admitted to lying to special agents with the FBI during interviews in June and July of 2017 by falsely stating, among other things, that he had no knowledge of any city official helping on a project in exchange for money, gifts, or campaign contributions.

In June, Huizar was arrested and charged with one count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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