LOS ANGELES – The older brother of José Huizar pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying to FBI agents about receiving envelopes of cash from the former Los Angeles city councilman — who is facing federal racketeering charges stemming from an alleged pay-to-play scheme at City Hall.
Salvador Huizar, 57, of Boyle Heights, entered his plea to one felony count of making false statements to investigators, acknowledging that he repeatedly lied about accepting cash from his brother, including to a federal grand jury and most recently during an interview with FBI agents and prosecutors, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As part of his plea agreement, Salvador Huizar agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation and is expected to testify at his brother’s trial in February.
U.S. District Judge John Walter set sentencing for May 15. The charge of making a false statement to a federal agency carries a sentence of up to five years behind bars.
Salvador Huizar admitted in his plea agreement that upon his brother’s request, he “accepted envelopes of cash from José Huizar on at least 20 occasions. In exchange, (Salvador Huizar) contemporaneously wrote checks, or facilitated electronic payments from (his) own bank account, to either José Huizar directly or to pay José Huizar’s expenses in the same amounts as the cash provided” by the then-councilman.
Even though Salvador Huizar asked his brother on multiple occasions about the cash, José Huizar reportedly said “it was better that (Salvador Huizar) did not know the source of the cash,” according to the plea agreement.
José Huizar was suspended from the City Council two years ago and eventually replaced after he was charged in the wide-ranging federal investigation. He and former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan are scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 21 on federal charges alleging they conspired to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The ex-councilman allegedly agreed to accept at least $1.5 million in illicit financial benefits and faces dozens of additional charges.
Previously in the racketeering case, real estate developer Dae Yong Lee and one of his companies were convicted in June of federal criminal charges for providing $500,000 in cash to the former councilman and his special assistant in exchange for their help in resolving a labor organization’s appeal of their downtown Los Angeles development project and obstructing justice by falsifying financial documents.
The next trial in the case is set to begin next week. Shen Zhen New World I LLC, an entity owned by real estate developer Wei Huang, is charged with bribing Huizar related to another downtown Los Angeles development project. Huang remains a fugitive.