Developers Charged In City Hall Corruption Case
A new indictment in the corruption case involving former Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar adds five defendants to the criminal case, including former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan and two developers with pending projects in Huizar’s district.
The U.S Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced Monday that Chan, along with Wei Huang, chairman and president of the China-based company Shenzhen Hazens, and Dae Yong Lee, a Los Angeles-based developer, were also named.
“As the indictment alleges, Huizar, Chan and their network of associates repeatedly violated the public trust by soliciting and accepting numerous cash bribes and other financial benefits, turning Huizar’s City Council seat into a money-making criminal enterprise,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.
Key details from earlier court filings indicated that Chan, Huang, Lee and the two developments were part of the corruption case, but they had not previously been charged.
Chan, who was deputy mayor of economic development for a year under Mayor Eric Garcetti and the general manager of the city’s Department of Building and Safety for two years before that, has been charged with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Federal officials say Chan was part of Huizar’s “criminal enterprise,” which allegedly arranged for and accepted money in exchange for supporting new developments in Huizar's district, which included Downtown LA.
Chan also faces charges of bribery, honest services fraud and lying to federal agents.
Huang is charged with bribery, honest services fraud and Travel Act violations. Lee is facing charges of bribery, honest services fraud and obstruction.
One of Huang’s companies, Shen Zhen New World I, which owned the LA Downtown Hotel and submitted plans to redevelop it into a 77-story skyscraper, was added as a defendant in the racketeering case. The fifth defendant added was Lee’s company 940 Hill, which was the owner of a site at that address in Downtown LA and the applicant for plans to build a residential tower on the property. The companies face the same charges as their respective leaders.
Ariel Neuman, the attorney for Lee and 940 Hill, dismissed the strength of the case against them. "It is disappointing that the government has decided to move forward with charges against my client, but we will now look forward to answering the charges in court," Neuman said.
Chan's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Attorneys for Huang and Shen Zhen New World were not listed in federal court documents at the time of publication.
Huizar was arrested in June and charged in July with a conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, money laundering and a host of other charges. Federal officials allege he accepted “at least $1.5M in illicit financial benefits” as part of the scheme.
Huizar was first elected in 2005. His term was slated to end this year. Previous federal filings also allege that Huizar’s wife's campaign for his council seat was part of a plan to hold onto his power over developments in Downtown.