Chinese company that paid more than $1 million to a Los Angeles councilman found guilty of bribery
Photo: File/David McNew/ / Getty Images
Chinese real estate company based in The Angels Shen Zhen New World I LLC was found guilty of paying more than $1 million in bribesincluding luxury travel expenses, casino gaming chips, and a bogus loan to then-Los Angeles City Councilman, Jose Huizar, to get city approval to build a 77-story skyscraper.
José Huizar and former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.which include multiple bribery charges and charges related to violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, and are scheduled to go to trial on February 21, 2023.
Racketeering is a term in English to refer to organized criminal activities, usually in the form of business or as a means of periodically or quickly and repetitively obtaining money illicitly.
George Esparza, a former high-level aide to former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, pleaded guilty in July 2020 on one count of racketeering conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5, 2023.
The US Department of Justice said in a statement that a jury found guilty this Thursday the Chinese company based in Los Angeles of the eight charges he faced: three counts of wire fraud, four counts of bribery involving interstate and foreign travel, and one more count of bribery.
The case dates back to 2010, when Shen Zhen New World I LLC bought the iconic LA Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
The property located in the district represented by then-Councilman Huizar, who was chairman of the Land Use Planning and Management Committee, which oversees major commercial and residential development projects in the city.
From February 2013 to November 2018, Wei Huang, owner of the company, provided Huizar and his assistant George Esparza with cash, casino gambling chips, luxurious flights on private jets and commercial airlines, hotel stays and casinos from Las Vegas luxury, expensive meals, prostitution services and political contributions, according to the indictment.
Additionally, Huang provided a $600,000 guarantee for Huizar to confidentially settle a lawsuit against him for sexual harassment of an assistant.
In June 2018, the company filed an application with the Los Angeles City Planning Department to transform the LA Grand Hotel into a 77-story skyscraper with a combination of residential and commercial space.
The accusation assures that the company provided these bribes to Huizar with the intention of “influencing” the councilman so that he would achieve and expedite the approval of the project.
The company will be sentenced on January 23, 2023. Shen Zhen New World I LLC is expected to face a multi-million dollar fine.
Huang, 57, a resident of Shenzhen, China who also maintains a residence in San Marino, Los Angeles County, is charged in this case but has not yet appeared in court.
The Department of Justice lists him as a fugitive and he is believed to be in China.
Salvador Huizar, José's brother who testified in the trial against the company, pleaded guilty to a felony for making false statements in a federal investigation, after reaching an agreement with the Department of Justice in which he promised to testify in the trial against the former councilman.
Federal prosecutors have so far convicted a total of nine defendants. and have received more than $3 million in criminal penalties to resolve their investigation into two other major real estate development companies, as a result of Operation “Casino Loyale,” the ongoing Los Angeles City Council corruption investigation conducted by the FBI and the US Attorney General's Office.
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