A grand federal jury returned a 34-count charge against Los Angeles City Councilor Jose Huizar on Thursday, alleging he accepted bribes, hid income, evaded taxes and lied to investigators.
Huizar, 61, is accused of accepting $ 1.5 million in “illicit financial benefits,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles said in a statement. He was arrested last month and released on a $ 100,000 bond.
A previous federal charge of conspiracy to violate the RacketeerInfluenced and Corrupt Organ Act was incorporated into Thursday’s indictment, said Ciaran McEvoy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney̵7;s office in Los Angeles.
A spokesman for Huizar did not immediately respond Thursday night to a request for comment.
The new allegations include multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, racketeering interstate travel, bribery and money laundering and a single number of structuring cash deposits to hide bribes, make a false statement to a financial institution, make false statements to federal law enforcement and tax evasion.
The case stems from allegations that Huizar took bribes from an unnamed Chinese billionaire developer and others in exchange for weighing favorably on proposed construction projects.
Huizar was the chairman of the City’s Strong Planning and Land Use Committee.
The indictment alleges that the councilor received about $ 800,000 in benefits from the billionaire, described by the U.S. Attorney’s office as a multinational developer who owns a hotel in Huizar district.
The developer wanted to build a 77-story building in Huizar district.
Prosecutors alleged in last month’s criminal complaint that Huizar received “direct and indirect financial benefits” on more than a dozen trips to Las Vegas casinos, which included rides on private jets and stops at villas. elegant.
He failed to report his “illicit benefits” on tax returns, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The grand jury’s allegation alleges that Huizar operated his office as a “criminal organization,” according to the U.S. attorney’s statement, and that others, including a former deputy mayor, are a special assistant. of Huizar and a real estate development consultant.
In May, 33-year-old George Esparza, a “special assistant” for Huizar until 2017, agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators on his role in the alleged scheme.
The FBI raided Huizar’s home and office in November 2018, and he was subsequently removed from his committee assignments.
“During the search of his home, agents seized about $ 129,000 in cash that was found in Huizar’s closet and that, according to the indictment, he received from a Chinese billionaire and another businessman seeking favors from him. , “federal prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
Huizar was scheduled to appear in federal court on Monday via videoconference.
The indictment is part of a wider corruption probe in the Los Angeles City Hall that saw five people charged. Former Councilor Mitch Englander pleaded guilty earlier this month to allegations of schemes to falsify facts about a businessman-funded trip he took to Las Vegas and Palm Springs.
Huizar has represented the center area since 2005.