Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar speaks at The Midnight Mission's 11th Annual Golden Hearts Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on May 9, 2011. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES—Federal prosecutors are recommending a 13-year prison term and more than $1.3 million in fines and restitution for disgraced former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, according to court papers obtained Dec. 28 by City News Service.
Mr. Huizar pleaded guilty to felony charges for using his powerful position at City Hall to enrich himself and his associates, and for cheating on his taxes. He faces a sentencing hearing now scheduled for Jan. 26 although he is asking for a month’s continuance.
“Huizar was a powerful career politician who swore an oath to defend the Constitution, faithfully discharge the duties of his office, and serve the interests of his constituents,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Instead, time and time again, defendant violated that oath and duty, choosing instead to place his own lust for money and power above the rights and interests of the people he was elected to serve.
“Through an astoundingly brazen and long-running RICO conspiracy that defendant led, he corrupted himself and other powerful developers and city officials at the public’s expense.”
Mr. Huizar’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The defense sentencing position has not yet been filed with the court.
Mr. Huizar, 55, of Boyle Heights, pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and one count of tax evasion.
Mr. Huizar represented Council District 14, which includes downtown Los Angeles and its surrounding communities, from 2005 until his resignation in 2020.
In his plea agreement, Mr. Huizar admitted to leading the so-called CD-14 Enterprise, which operated as a pay-to-play scheme in which Mr. Huizar— assisted by others—unlawfully used his office to give favorable treatment to real estate developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit financial benefits.
“For years, defendant operated his pay-to-play scheme in the City of Los Angeles to monetize his public position and leverage his political clout for over $1.5 million dollars in cash bribes, gambling chips, luxury trips, political contributions, prostitutes, extravagant meals, services, concerts, and other gifts,” according to the sentencing memo filed in Los Angeles federal court.
“If anyone dared rebuff his call to pay bribes, he punished them and their City projects, threatening developers with indefinitely delayed projects and financial peril,” the memo reads.
An FBI agent carries a case from the home of Los Angeles Councilman José Huizar in Los Angeles on Nov. 7, 2018. (Frederic Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr. Huizar also admitted to accepting a $600,000 bribe payment in the form of collateral from a China-based billionaire real estate developer for use to secretly settle a pending sexual harassment lawsuit against him by a former staffer.
Mr. Huizar “covered his tracks with layers of concealment, including by shamelessly exploiting his elderly mother, brother, and wife to launder his illicit proceeds. Finally, when defendant felt the walls of the instant federal investigation closing in on him, he made the calculated decision to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses and lying to government prosecutors and agents,” according to federal prosecutors.
In return for Mr. Huizar pleading guilty to the two felony counts, prosecutors agreed to seek no more than 13 years in prison for Mr. Huizar, who also has agreed to forfeit $129,000 in cash that law enforcement found during a search of his home in November 2018.