A Democrat former Los Angeles councilman has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption.
Jose Huizar, 55, served from 2005 through 2020 when he was arrested.
Last year, Huizar pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act related to a $500,000 bribe from a real estate developer and one count of tax evasion.
“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,” The Hill reports.
LA politician Jose Huizar turned his City Council district into a RICO scheme.
Today a judge sentenced him to 13 years in prison, and his lawyers said some people think he’s the best councilman downtown ever had.
Here’s Huizar trying to get his bribe money back from an aide. pic.twitter.com/eEeoLiD0IN
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) January 26, 2024
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter handed down the 13-year sentence, as well as $443,905 in restitution to the City of Los Angeles and $38,792 in restitution to the IRS.
“No one is above the law,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “Today’s sentence shows that even a powerful elected official like Huizar will be held accountable for engaging in criminal misconduct. Huizar was elected to serve the interests of the hard-working people of Los Angeles, but he instead served his own personal interests in a long-running, pay-to-play, bribery scheme. Our community deserves better.”
The day before his sentencing, Huizar wrote to the judge asking for leniency. He claimed the charges against him are harming his children’s futures and mental health.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
Walter said the 13-year sentence was needed to “engender respect” for the nation’s anti-corruption laws and acknowledge the extreme harm caused by Huizar — to his family, to his constituents, to the city and to democracy itself. Huizar, he said, had been the prime architect of a criminal enterprise that relied on bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice and other crimes to achieve its goals — enriching himself and his associates, and expanding their political power.
“He was the sole and powerful driving force” that made each of the pay-to-play schemes so successful, the judge said.
“This years-long investigation uncovered one of the most audacious public corruption cases in this city’s history,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
Alway continued, “This case would not have been possible without the dedication of agents and prosecutors – and importantly – the cooperation of many citizens who were fed up with rampant malfeasance by public officials. Mr. Huizar ignored the needs of his constituents and instead, served his own interests by accepting bribes and a wide assortment of luxury perks from wealthy real estate moguls and others who could afford Huizar’s political favors at the taxpayer’s expense. My hope is that this case brings more citizens forward to the FBI when they suspect corrupt practices and foreign influence.”
Huizar was working to help get his wife Richelle Huizar elected to take over his seat at the end of his term when he was arrested.
The disgraced politician must turn himself into federal authorities on April 30.
Huizar is from Mexico and became a US citizen while he was in college.