Ex-LA councilman pleads guilty in $1.5M corruption case

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar pleaded guilty Friday to taking $1.5 million in bribes from developers in a sweeping City Hall corruption case.

Huizar, 54, entered pleas in federal court to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion. Under a plea agreement he signed earlier this week, Huizar could face at least nine years but no more than 13 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on April 3.

He also must pay nearly $2 million in restitution.

Prosecutors alleged that from 2013 to 2017, Huizar masterminded a $1.5 million pay-to-play scheme tied to the approval of downtown high-rise developments while he chaired the city’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Huizar was accused of accepting cash, casino gambling chips, luxury stays in Las Vegas, expensive meals, prostitution services, political contributions and funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

In a statement, Huizar apologized to his family, his former constituents and the city.

“My actions were not acceptable, and I will accept the consequences for my actions,” Huizar said. “My family needs some healing, and I hope that my acceptance of responsibility will allow the city to heal from the harm that my actions have caused.”

The sweeping and ongoing City Hall corruption probe has now resulted in nearly a dozen defendants being convicted or pleading guilty to federal charges. They included Huizar’s brother, Salvador Huizar, who acknowledged laundering bribe money; a former Huizar assistant, a Huizar fundraiser and two real estate developers.

The racketeering trial of the last remaining major defendant, former LA Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, is scheduled to begin on Feb. 21.