SANTA MONICA—On Monday, January 25, the United States Department of Justice announced that former Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitchell Englander was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for his conduct surrounding his obstruction of a public corruption investigation into his acceptance of gifts, including $15,000 from a businessman during trips to Palm Springs and Las Vegas in 2017.
Englander, 50, of Santa Monica, was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who noted that Englander’s “elaborate and clandestine scheme” to cover up his conduct has “undermined the public trust.” In declining Englander’s request for probation, Judge Walter stated that “justice [was] owed to society.” Englander was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.
Englander schemed to cover up escort services, expensive meals, cash payments, and other gifts offered to him from an individual identified as Businessperson A, who attempted to increase his business opportunities in Los Angeles. From August 2017 until December 2018, Englander willfully and knowingly concealed and falsified material facts pertaining to the federal investigation. He covered up that he had accepted gifts during trips to Palm Springs and Las Vegas and that he directed a witness to lie and mislead federal investigators.
While serving as a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and city councilmember, Englander, “illicitly cashed in on his status as a purported public servant in casino bathrooms and through VIP bottle service, luxury dinners, and behind hotel room doors,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Over numerous incidents of escalating corruption and self-preservation, [Englander] sold out both oaths, cheaply and repeatedly.”
During the trip to Las Vegas, Englander accepted from Businessperson A $10,000 in cash, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, a hotel room, a $2,481 group dinner, and $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub. Businessperson A also paid for two female escorts and instructed one of them to go to Englander’s room.
At a golf tournament in Palm Springs, Englander accepted $5,000 in cash from Businessperson A. After the trips to Palm Springs and Las Vegas, Englander arranged for Businessperson A to pitch his business to a friend of Englander’s who was a developer.
Englander sent a reimbursement check to Businessperson A after learning about the federal investigation and backdated the check “to give the impression he intended to reimburse the expenses before the FBI reached out to request an interview,” prosecutors noted in the sentencing memorandum.
Englander attempted to coordinate statements he made to the FBI and federal prosecutors with Businessperson A, on at least three separate occasions, and counseled Businessperson A how to lie and mislead federal prosecutors conducting the investigation.
On three separate occasions, Englander also made false statements to the FBI and federal prosecutors in 2017 and 2018.
Englander “was motivated by plain old-fashioned greed, selfishness, and a desperate desire to cling to his status as a wealthy and powerful City official,” prosecutors argued in the sentencing memorandum, which notes that the corrupt conduct has “cause[d] lasting civic damage by undermining the City’s faith in its public servants.”
He became the first person to be sentenced in relation to Operation “Casino Loyale,” the ongoing corruption investigation into Los Angeles City Hall that has also led to criminal charges against former City Councilmember Jose Huizar and 10 other defendants. Huizar is the lead defendant in a racketeering indictment that alleges he agreed to accept $1.5 million in illicit financial benefits while serving as the leader of a criminal enterprise. A jury trial for Huizar and several other defendants is scheduled for June 22.
Several individuals charged in the investigation have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Two corporate entities have entered into non-prosecution agreements and have paid a total of $2.25 million.