Former Los Angeles councilmember José Huízar allegedly used his older brother to launder some of the money he received as part of a City Hall corruption scheme, and now the sibling could face time in prison for lying to federal authorities about his participation in the politician’s scheme.
The brother, Salvador Huízar, admitted in a plea agreement filed Wednesday that he lied about taking cash from José Huízar, then writing checks back to him or arranging to pay his expenses.
Salvador, 57, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of making false statements to federal investigators. He admitted to lying on several occasions about taking the cash from his brother, including to a federal grand jury and most recently two weeks ago during an interview with FBI agents and federal prosecutors.
As part of his plea agreement, the Boyle Heights resident has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation against his younger brother and has agreed to testify at the next two trials in this case.
Salvador is expected to formally enter his guilty plea before a federal judge in the coming weeks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge of making a false statement to a federal agency carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
In the plea agreement Salvador said that José gave him envelopes filled with cash on at least 20 occasions, between November, 2013 and August, 2018. According to the plea agreement, “In exchange, [Salvador Huízar] contemporaneously wrote checks, or facilitated electronic payments from [his] own bank account, to either José Huizar directly or to pay José Huizar’s expenses in the same amounts as the cash provided by José Huizar.”
Even though Salvador asked his brother on multiple occasions about the cash, José said “it was better that [Salvador] did not know the source of the cash,” according to the plea agreement.
The case against José Huízar
José Huízar, 54, was arrested on June 23, 2020 at his Boyle Heights home and is the central figure in a six-year federal probe of suspected corruption in City Hall.
He is accused of receiving $1.5 million in bribes as part of a pay-to-play scheme in which developers were asked for cash and campaign donations in exchange for help in getting major downtown development projects approved. Huízar’s lawyers deny the allegations against the former councilman.
Huízar and former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan are scheduled to go to trial on February 21, 2023, on federal charges alleging they conspired to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
The RICO charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.
In June, real estate developer Dae Yong Lee and one of his companies were convicted of federal criminal charges for providing $500,000 in cash to the ex-councilman and his special assistant in exchange for their help in resolving a labor organization’s appeal of their downtown Los Angeles development project and obstructing justice by falsifying financial documents.
The next scheduled trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 25. Shen Zhen New World I LLC, an entity owned by real estate developer Wei Huang, is charged with bribing Huizar related to another downtown Los Angeles development project.
Huízar, a Boyle Heights native, represented the neighborhood as councilmember for the Los Angeles City Council District 14 –which includes most of downtown LA and several Eastside communities– from 2005 up until his arrest in 2020.