Originally published October 7, 2020
Katy Perry concert tickets, a family trip to China and campaign cash: these are some of the gifts that the Chinese megadeveloper Shenzhen Hazens admitted to providing to suspended City Councilman José Huízar — through a local subsidiary.
The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that a local subsidiary of the company has agreed to pay more than $1 million to avoid prosecution for its involvement in a large-scale bribery scheme at Los Angeles City Hall.
The developer was after Huízar’s help ushering a $700 million-dollar hotel redevelopment project through the Planning And Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired.
Shenzhen Hazens established Jia Yuan USA Co., based in Arcadia, to redevelop the Luxe Hotel near Staples Center in DTLA. According to DOJ and FBI investigators, Jia Yuan USA Co. showered Huizar with gifts and campaign donations in exchange for his approval for the project.
The company worked through George Chiang, a Granada Hills real estate developer and consultant — one of five men to plead guilty so far in the scheme, including former Councilman Mitch Englander.
The non-prosecution agreement is predicated on full FBI cooperation by Shenzhen Hazens and its L.A.-area subsidiaries, and it “does not preclude or limit the investigation or prosecution of individuals, including any current or former Jia Yuan officer, employee or agent,” the DOJ added.
Huízar is facing trial on 34-counts of racketeering and corruption charges related to his time as chairman of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee. He allegedly used his perch overseeing downtown development deals to enrich himself, enjoy lavish trips, and grow the campaign coffers of his wife, Richelle Huízar, who was running to succeed him on the council.
Five men have pleaded guilty so far in the large-scale bribery scheme. Huizar’s trial date is set for June.
— LIBBY DENKMANN
This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2020 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.