A Chinese real-estate developer was sentenced last week for bribing former Councilmember José Huízar with over $1 million in benefits in exchange for city approval of a skyscraper development in the downtown Los Angeles sector of CD14.
Shen Zhen New World I LLC, the company in question, was sentenced Friday to five years of probation and fined $4 million, the maximum penalty under state law. At the end of an 11-day trial in November, the developer was found guilty of three counts of honest service wire fraud, four counts of interstate and foreign travel in aid of bribery, and one count of bribery.
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter noted that the criminal case involving Huízar and several of his associates exposed the “crushing costs of public corruption.”
The company, a US subsidiary of China-based Shenzhen New World Group, is owned by Wei Huang, who is also accused of corruption. The 57-year-old billionaire developer has yet to make a court appearance and is believed to be hiding somewhere in China.
In 2010, the company purchased the LA Grand Hotel on Huang’s behalf. Between 2013 and 2018, the company provided Huízar with as many as 19 gambling trips to Las Vegas, both on private jets and commercial airlines. Huízar stayed at luxury hotels and was treated to expensive meals and prostitutes. The group also provided $600,000 collateral for the Councilmember to privately settle a pending sexual harassment lawsuit by a former staffer.
In exchange, the developer expected Huízar to push the approval process for a commercial and residential project to convert the purchased hotel into a 77-story mixed use skyscraper.
Earlier in the year, Huízar pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of tax evasion, agreeing to seek a sentence of no less than nine years in prison. His sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for September 25.