Former Los Angeles councilman sentenced to 13 years in prison in corruption case

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Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison in a corruption case that involved cash bribes with a local real estate developer.

U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter handed down the sentence after receiving a letter from Huizar, who apologized for his crimes. The former councilman said he paid a huge price already, losing his reputation and ability to provide for his family and harmed his children’s future and mental health, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Huizar and two of his associates previously pleaded guilty to charges related to a $500,000 bribery from David Lee, a Southern California real estate developer. He also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and organized crime charges last January.

The former council member agreed to serve at least nine years in prison. Walter said the 13-year sentence was necessary to “engender respect” for the country’s anti-corruption laws.

Lee planned a major commercial and residential development in downtown Los Angeles. But when the project was halted in the city approval process, he reached out to Huizar, the Department of Justice said.

Huizar was the local member for the project and the head of the city’s planning board. He asked for a cash bribe, which Lee delivered.

He was ordered to pay nearly $444,000 in restitution to the city and $39,000 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the LA Times reported. Huizar is also required to surrender to federal authorities on Apr. 30, per the filing.

Federal prosecutors in the case argued that Huizar monetized his position in the government and had secured more than $1.5 million in cash bribes, gambling chips, luxury hotel visits, political contributions, prostitute services, expensive meals and more from developers who had projects in the downtown L.A. district he oversaw.

He served as a member of the city council from 2005 to 2020, when he was arrested and indicted.

In 2018, the FBI searched his office at the Los Angeles City Hall. He was working to elect his wife, Richelle Huizar, to take his seat at the end of his term in 2020.

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