Brother of ex-LA City Councilman José Huizar agrees to plead guilty

The brother of former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar — who faces federal racketeering charges stemming from an alleged pay-to-play scheme — admitted in a plea agreement filed on Wednesday, Oct. 12, that he took cash from his brother on numerous occasions and immediately wrote checks back to him or arranged to pay his expenses, then lied about his actions to federal investigators.

Salvador Huizar, 57, of Boyle Heights, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of making false statements to federal investigators, acknowledging that he repeatedly lied about accepting cash from his brother, including to a federal grand jury and most recently two weeks ago during an interview with FBI agents and federal prosecutors, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As part of his plea agreement, Salvador Huizar has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation and has agreed to testify at the next two trials in the case, including his brother’s trial.

Salvador Huizar is expected to formally enter his guilty plea before a Los Angeles federal judge in the coming weeks. The charge of making a false statement to a federal agency carries a sentence of up to five years in federal prison.

Salvador Huizar admitted in his plea agreement that between at least Nov. 26, 2013, and Aug. 22, 2018, 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.

A message left with José Huizar’s attorney seeking comment was not immediately answered.

Salvador Huizar admitted he lied to FBI agents on Nov. 17, 2018, when he falsely stated that his brother never asked him to write any checks, except on two occasions and for which he was not paid back. However, on at least 20 occasions, José Huizar gave his brother an envelope of cash and asked him to write checks or facilitate electronic payments to José Huizar or for his expenses, the plea agreement states.

Salvador Huizar also admitted he made false statements to the FBI and federal prosecutors on Jan. 30, 2020 — when he said cash from his brother was to pay off a debt or that he received cash later, after the check was written — and two weeks ago when he reiterated these false statements before recanting and saying José Huizar regularly had cash with him and gave Salvador Huizar cash at the time he wrote the checks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

During an appearance before a federal grand jury on March 5, 2020, Salvador Huizar also made false statements when he testified under oath that cash from José Huizar was to pay off a debt and that cash was received only after Salvador Huizar wrote a check to his brother, prosecutors said.

José Huizar and former Los Angeles 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. Huizar allegedly agreed to accept at least $1.5 million in illicit financial benefits and faces dozens of additional federal criminal 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 ex-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 scheduled trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 25. 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.

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