By T.A. Hendrickson
The latest development in the federal corruption investigation of L.A. City Hall is more bad news for City Councilmember José Huizar, leading to calls by city leaders for him to step aside.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors announced that George Chiang, 41, a real estate consultant, would plead guilty for his role in bribing an L.A. city councilmember and other public employees to gain their official support on various development projects.
In the announcement of Chiang’s guilty plea, prosecutors did not name the city councilmember who allegedly accepted the bribes. But they gave enough professional and personal detail to identify him as Huizar, the longtime councilmember for Council District 14 who largely dropped out of public view after the FBI searched his home and offices in November, 2018.
Huizar’s lawyer, Vicki Poderesky, did not respond to a request for comment from the Boulevard Sentinel.
Chiang’s name has come up in the corruption investigation before. In 2018, a federal search warrant sought evidence of potential crimes by Chiang and 16 other people, among them: Huizar; Ray Chan, a former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development; Shawn Kuk, a staffer for Huizar; as well as Huizar’s mother, Isidra, and brother, Salvador. Other than Chiang, no one named in the search warrant has been publicly charged with any crime. But Chiang’s guilty plea indicates that the search warrant has uncovered evidence of criminal activity, in which case more charges against more people would be likely.
The announcement of Chiang’s guilty plea marks the second time in recent weeks that prosecutors have signaled that Huizar is in their sights. In March, prosecutors announced that Justin Jangwoo Kim, 53, a former City Planning commissioner and political fundraiser for Huizar, had agreed to plead guilty to charges related to bribing an unnamed city councilperson. The announcement of Kim’s guilty plea, like the announcement of Chiang’s plea, gave identifying details that pointed to Huizar as the councilmember in question.
Also in March, federal prosecutors announced that former L.A. City Councilmember Mitchell Englander would plead guilty to a charge of obstructing a public corruption investigation. More details are sure to emerge about what Englander knows about sleaze at City Hall. For now, nabbing him also serves prosecutors’ purpose of striking fear into any elected official who has been up to no good.
The court has not yet scheduled a date for Chiang to enter his guilty plea. Kim is scheduled to enter his guilty plea on June 3; he faces up to 10 years in prison, though could gain leniency for cooperating with the investigation. Englander, who is scheduled to enter his plea on June 4, has an agreement with prosecutors to keep his sentence to a maximum of 36 months, according to the L.A. Times.
Huizar’s term as councilmember for CD 14 ends officially on December 14, 2020.
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