HOLLYWOOD HILLS—Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, 51, was arrested for corruption and made his first court appearance on Tuesday, June 23.
Huizar was arrested at his Boyle Heights home Tuesday on one count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. He has not entered a plea but did have U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul L. Abrams order his release on a $100,000 bond. A preliminary hearing has been tentatively set for July 14, and an arraignment for July 20.
His arrest comes more than 18 months after federal authorities raided his office in November 2018 in relation to an ongoing corruption investigation in which officials at City Hall accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from real estate developers. During the search, $129,000 in cash was found stashed in a closet.
After the raid, many called for Huizar to resign. He was also removed from several council committees, including the Planning and Land Use Committee where he had the power to decide which projects advanced and which were halted.
Huizar is accused of running a “pay-to-play” scheme in which he and his associates solicited bribes from developers to insure that their project received favorable treatment during the city’s approval process.
According to reports, one real estate developer gave Huizar $500,000 in cash in paper bags to help resolve a labor dispute. He also provided more than a dozen trips to casinos in the U.S. and abroad in which he was given $250,000 in gambling chips. Other accusations include a Chinese real estate developer who is said to have put up $600,000 in collateral so that Huizar could get a bank loan to pay off a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment.
Aside from this legal issue, Huizar was involved in a 2012 incident where his vehicle rear-ended another car in a traffic accident. The city was forced to pay up to $185,000 as part of a settlement for the case. In 2014, the city settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former staff member. Justin Jangwoo Kim, the former fundraiser and former city planning commissioner pleaded guilty to federal charges of coordinating large cash bribes from former councilmember Mitch Englander, who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Kim.
Huizar has represented District 14 since 2005, which consists of Boyle Heights. His current term expires in November 2020 and he is prevented from running again due to term limits. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted as charged.