SANTA MONICA—A former Los Angeles City Councilman surrendered to FBI agents on Monday, March 9 to face criminal charges that he obstructed an investigation where he was accused of accepting cash, female escort services, hotel rooms and expensive meals from a businessman during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and later lied to the FBI about his conduct.
Mitchell Englander, 49, of Santa Monica, was taken into custody after being named in a seven-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on January 16. The indictment charges being levied against Englander are one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements, and three counts of witness tampering.
Englander represented Los Angeles Council District 12 in the San Fernando Valley from July 2011, until he abruptly resigned on December 31, 2018, when he had almost two years left on his term. Among other duties, he served as the Council President Pro-Tempore and was on the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, which oversees many of the =significant commercial and residential development projects in the city of Los Angeles.
The indictment alleges Englander schemed to cover up his acceptance of cash payments, expensive meals and escort services from a businessman – identified in the indictment as Businessperson A – who operated companies in Los Angeles relating to major development projects and sought to increase his business opportunities in the city. According to the indictment, from August 2017 through December 2018, Englander knowingly and willfully falsified and concealed material facts pertaining to this federal public corruption investigation. He covered up facts that he accepted items of value during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, the indictment alleges. Two months after the Vegas trip, Businessperson A began cooperating with the FBI in a public corruption investigation focused on suspected “pay-to-play” schemes involving Los Angeles public officials.
During the trip to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, where he was accompanied by two city staffers, a lobbyist and a real estate developer, Englander accepted from Businessperson A an envelope with $10,000 in cash. In addition, he accepted services from a female escort, hotel rooms, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub, and a $2,481 dinner at a restaurant, the indictment states. At a golf tournament in Palm Springs on June 12, 2017, Businessperson A allegedly gave Englander an envelope containing an additional $5,000 in cash. Shortly after the trips, Englander arranged for Businessperson A to pitch his business to a friend of Englander’s who was a developer.
In August 2017, after Englander learned about the FBI’s public corruption investigation, he privately sent an encrypted message to Businessperson A via the online messaging service Confide, indicating that he now wanted to reimburse him for portions of the June 2017 Las Vegas trip, the indictment states.
The indictment also alleges that Englander made false statements to the FBI and federal prosecutors on three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018. He is expected to be arraigned this week at the Roybal Federal Building and Courthouse. If convicted of the seven charges in the indictment, Englander would face a statutory maximum penalty of 50 years in federal prison.