The FBI, in collaboration with IRS Criminal Investigation in Los Angeles, has completed a large-scale investigation that resulted in the sentencing of former City Councilmember José Luis Huizar. The 55-year-old resident of Boyle Heights served as a Los Angeles City Councilmember from 2005 to 2020. In mid-2020, he was indicted on charges related to bribery and tax evasion. Last January, Huizar 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 sentenced the former politician to 13 years in prison last Friday. In addition to the federal prison sentence, Huizar was ordered to pay $38,792 in restitution to the IRS and $443,905 in restitution to the City of Los Angeles. He is required to surrender to the authorities by April 30, 2024.
Prosecutors revealed that their years-long investigation uncovered Huizar’s criminal conspiracy activities, including a “pay-to-play scheme” with the goals of maintaining his political position, receiving financial benefits through bribes, and avoiding law enforcement detection.
Furthermore, prosecutors found that Huizar received cash bribes, political contributions, luxury stays at hotels and casinos, flights on private jets, and prostitution services. In exchange, he used his influence as a public official to provide favorable treatment to paying real estate developers.
In 2013, Huizar allegedly funneled $600,000 from billionaire real estate developer Wei Huang through a shell company, using it to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. He also accepted $1 million in benefits from Huang in exchange for aiding in a project to redevelop Huang’s hotel into the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles west of the Mississippi.
United States Attorney Martin Estrada remarked on Huizar’s sentencing, emphasizing that it demonstrates that even powerful elected officials will be held accountable for criminal misconduct. Estrada stated that the sentencing confirms that even influential politicians who engage in unlawful activities can be brought to justice. He concluded by highlighting that instead of serving the public’s interest, Huizar engaged in bribery and a long-term pay-to-play scheme.