After pleading guilty to obstructing a public corruption investigation, former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander was sentenced Monday to 14 months in federal prison. A total of nine individuals and two businesses have now been charged as a result of this federal investigation, including former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar.
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 his plea agreement, 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 tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, including hotel rooms, meals, nightclub bar tabs, and escorts during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs.
After Englander discovered he was under federal investigation, he instructed the businessman to lie to the FBI and mislead investigators. Unbeknownst to Englander, the businessman had turned informant and was recording their conversations.
On March 9, 2020, Englander was arrested and 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 pleaded guilty to one count of scheming to falsify material facts.
On June 23, 2020, former Councilman Jose Huizar was arrested and charged with one count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for allegedly accepting $1.5 million in bribes. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
In May 2020, Huizar’s former special assistant, George Esparza, 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.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter sentenced Englander to 14 months in federal prison. The former city councilman was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.
In addition to Englander, several individuals charged in the investigation have pleaded guilty and await sentencing later this year. Two corporate entities have entered into non-prosecution agreements and collectively have paid $2.25 million.