The sentencing of a former Los Angeles City Councilmember, José Luis Huizar, to 13 years in prison was the result of a major investigation carried out by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation. Huizar, who held the position of City Councilmember from 2005 to 2020, was indicted on charges of bribery and tax evasion in mid-2020. Last year, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and one count of tax evasion.
US District Judge John F. Walter handed down the sentence, which also includes a requirement for Huizar to pay $38,792 in restitution to the IRS and $443,905 in restitution to the City of Los Angeles. The former politician has until April 30, 2024, to surrender to the authorities.
Prosecutors revealed that Huizar engaged in criminal conspiracy activities and orchestrated a “pay-to-play scheme” to maintain his political power, receive bribes, and evade law enforcement detection. He accepted cash bribes, political contributions, luxury hotel stays, flights on private jets, and prostitution services in exchange for using his influence to benefit paying real estate developers.
In 2013, Huizar allegedly directed $600,000 from billionaire real estate developer Wei Huang through a shell company to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. He also accepted $1 million in benefits from Huang in exchange for supporting a project to redevelop Huang’s hotel into the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles west of the Mississippi River.
United States Attorney Martin Estrada emphasized that Huizar’s sentencing demonstrates that even powerful politicians are not above the law and can be held accountable for criminal misconduct. Estrada condemned Huizar for prioritizing illegal activities such as bribery and running a long-term pay-to-play scheme over serving the public’s best interest.