NATIONAL NEWS

Developer who paid $500,000 bribe to Los Angeles councilman sentenced to 6 years in federal prison

Jul 21, 2023, 5:30 PM | Updated: 7:04 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A real estate developer was sentenced Friday to six years in federal prison for paying $500,000 in bribes to a Los Angeles city councilman for help with a downtown project.

Dae Yong Lee, also known as “David Lee,” also was fined $750,000 and a company that he controlled was fined $1.5 million plus prosecution costs, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

Prosecutors said that in 2017, Lee bribed José Huizar and the councilman’s special assistant to help resolve a labor organization’s appeal that was blocking approval of a planned development that was to include more than 200 residences and some 14,000 square feet (1,300 square meters) of commercial space.

At the time, Huizar chaired the city’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

In 2017, Lee made three cash payments totaling $500,000 to Huizar’s assistant, George Esparza, prosecutors said.

Last year, Lee and the company were convicted of bribery, honest services wire fraud and falsifying records in federal investigations to conceal the bribes.

The sentence was the latest in a sweeping corruption case swirling around Huizar, whom authorities said ran a pay-to-play bribery scheme from 2013 to 2017 tied to the approval of downtown high-rise developments.

Huizar pleaded guilty in January to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25. Under a plea agreement, Huizar agreed to seek a sentence of at least nine years in prison, prosecutors said.

In addition to Huizar, more than a half-dozen other people have been convicted or pleaded guilty to federal charges in the scheme, including Huizar’s brother, Salvador Huizar.

Esparza pleaded guilty in July 2020 to one count of racketeering conspiracy and testified against Lee at his trial.

Former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan is awaiting retrial next year on federal charges of racketeering conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that he accepted more than $100,000 to help a Chinese real estate developer.

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Developer who paid $500,000 bribe to Los Angeles councilman sentenced to 6 years in federal prison