Federal prosecutors have accused Salvador Huizar of money laundering for his brother, former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, more than 20 times between November 2013 and August 2018, and lying to federal investigators multiple times. Former Councilman Huizar was indicted in 2020 on federal racketeering charges, including bribery, fraud, and extortion, through his orchestration of a pay-to-play scheme where he agreed to accept $1.5 million in bribes from real estate developers who wanted his favorable votes.
This is how powerful the Los Angeles City Council is. Not only is the council authorized to create local ordinances (subject to the mayor’s approval or veto), but they have their hands in elections, impose and regulate city taxes, and adopt traffic regulations. The biggest role they play, and the subject of ongoing sagas and corruption throughout the city’s history, is overseeing and authorizing public improvements and approving city contracts. Huizar used this juice in his role as chair of the Planning and Land Use Management Commission to shake down real estate developers who wanted the inside track on city planning.
From The Los Angeles Times:
The older brother of Jose Huizar admitted to lying to FBI agents about receiving envelopes of cash from Huizar and will cooperate with the federal government’s sprawling corruption investigation into the former Los Angeles city councilman.
On multiple occasions, Huizar gave his older brother, Salvador, envelopes of cash and asked him to write a check for the exact amount out of his own bank account, federal investigators said.
When Salvador Huizar asked about the money, Jose Huizar said it was better that he “did not know the source of the cash,” according to a plea agreement filed Wednesday by the councilman’s brother.
Salvador Huizar, 57, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of making false statements to federal investigators, admitting to repeatedly lying about the cash, including while under oath before a federal grand jury and as recently as two weeks ago when he was interviewed again by FBI agents.
Salvador Huizar would take cash from his brother and either write a check to Councilman Huizar or arrange to pay for his brother’s expenses — money laundering so simple that even a five-year-old could do it; and it would have drawn about as much attention too. Frankly, had it not been for Councilman Huizar’s excess, with lavish junkets to Las Vegas, he may well have stayed outside of the FBI’s radar.
The corruption that the Huizars trafficked in certainly has not stopped, despite Councilman Huizar’s removal from office.
The person who called for Huizar’s suspension was then-Council President Nury Martinez. The person who took over Huizar’s District 14 Council seat? None other than Kevin DeLeon. Both Martinez and DeLeon, along with Councilman Gil Cedillo are embroiled in the LatinX Scandal, involving racism and redistricting. Martinez resigned as council president on Monday, and from her Council District 6 seat on Wednesday. Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell has attempted to reach out to DeLeon, who went MIA before the contentious Tuesday City Council Meeting kicked off, to press him to resign. O’Farrell has had an extensive conversation with Cedillo about resigning, but currently, he is sitting pretty. Cedillo was primaried in June by avowed Democrat Socialist Eunisses Hernandez, and only has two more months on his term. He’s got nothing to lose.
DeLeon is a peripatetic California politician who somehow remains adjacent to the corruption of his colleagues while avoiding being sucked into an actual indictment. We’ll see how long that holds.
The case of Salvador Huizar is a window into how the corruption train in the City Council runs. And nine times out of 10, it involves real estate.
In the current LatinX Scandal, the main players all hold key committee seats: Gil Cedillo is head of the Housing Committee. If he resigns or when his term ends in December, Vice Chair Nithya Raman would take over as committee chair. From the leaked conversation, Raman was one of the councilmembers whose district Martinez had plans to carve up to blunt her power. DeLeon is chair of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee and is overseeing Project Roomkey and other property and landlord theft enterprises in the name of solving the homelessness crisis.
Control of redistricting and pivotal real estate and construction projects were parts of the pie Martinez, DeLeon, and Cedillo attempted to carve up between them, as The Real Deal explains:
Real estate has played a role in the scandal from the inception and fallout in terms of resignations could affect future development.
Cedillo leads the City Council’s Housing Committee. If he resigns, the committee will be led by its current Vice Chair Nithya Raman. Endorsed by left-wing group Democratic Socialists of America during the 2020 election, Raman recently scored a victory when her “just cause” eviction protections were included in an agreement to end the more than two-year pandemic eviction moratorium.
De León helms the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, which manages policy on shelter for the unhoused.
Martinez, who previously resigned her position as City Council president, made comments about renters in the leaked audio which was published in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 9.
In the audio, Martinez, Cedillo, De León and Ron Herrera, the former president of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, plotted to redistrict the city’s electoral map. Martinez sought to cut the political muscle of renters for council colleague Raman, when she mentioned the Koreatown section of Los Angeles on the leaked audio.
“It serves us to not give her all of K-Town,” Martinez said of Raman. “Because if you do, that solidifies her renters’ district, and that is not a good thing for any of us. You have to keep her on the fence.”
It took whistleblowers in Huizar’s office, a sexual harassment suit, and an aide rolling on him to bring Huizar’s malfeasance to the light of day. While his brother is rolling over, The L.A. Times explained that both Huizar’s wife and mother are named in the federal documents, though they have not been charged.
Jose Huizar’s mother, Isidra Huizar, and his wife, Richelle Huizar, have also been referred to throughout the multiple cases in the investigation, but not by name. Neither of the women has been arrested or publicly charged.
As part of his plea agreement filed in the Central District of California, Salvador Huizar admitted he lied to investigators in 2018 when he claimed that his brother never asked him to write any checks, save for two occasions and for which he was not paid back. He also admitted he lied again to agents in January 2020 as well as two months later, when he testified before a federal grand jury.
Salvador Huizar will cooperate with the federal government’s investigation and will testify in the next two trials in the criminal case.
Maybe all that blather Martinez wrote to her family in her resignation statement was a bat signal to go underground. As the Huizar real estate scandal continues apace, and the LatinX Scandal unfolds, it might behoove anyone investigating to look deeper into the family ties.