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Brother of indicted ex-LA City Council member agrees to plead guilty, cooperate

The brother of José Huizar agreed to testify at the former City Council member's upcoming racketeering trial.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The older brother of indicted former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar has agreed to plead guilty to lying to the FBI and to cooperate with the prosecution.

Salvador Huizar, 57, admitted he lied to federal investigators about envelopes with cash he received from his brother on at least 20 occasions and for which he immediately wrote checks back to his brother or arranged to pay his brother's expenses, according to a statement Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in LA.

As part of his plea agreement, Salvador Huizar has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation and will testify at the next two trials in this case, including that of his brother. He faces as long as five years in prison for lying to the FBI but the government agreed to seek a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation.

An attorney for Salvador Huizar didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the plea agreement.

The announcement came as the national spotlight shines on the dysfunctional culture at LA City Hall following a leaked audio in which three Latino council members, including the council president who stepped down from that post Monday and resigned entirely Wednesday, are heard making numerous racist and homophobic comments about their colleagues and others. The disclosure of their comments has prompted an outpouring of disbelief and anger in the city and even prompted the White House to call for the three to step down.

The upheaval over the leaked audio follows a yearslong federal probe of corruption at City Hall and other LA city departments that have netted numerous indictments and guilty pleas. Perhaps the most blatant of the alleged bribery schemes is that of José Huizar, who as council member of the district that includes downtown LA and as chair of the city's influential Planning and Land Use Management Committee is accused of seeking millions of dollars in bribes from real estate developers in a pay-to-play scheme during the unprecedented building boom in the city center.

The younger Huizar is scheduled to go on trial next year, following the trial of one local developer who was found guilty in June of bribing the politician and that of a Chinese developer whose trial is set to start later this month.

The 54-year-old, who pleaded not guilty to all charges in August 2020, was the first sitting elected Los Angeles official to face federal racketeering charges.

According to the indictment, Wei Huang, the president and chairman of Chinese real-estate developer Shen Zhen New World, wined and dined José Huizar on gambling trips to Las Vegas. He also allegedly gave the politician a $600,000 bribe disguised as a loan in 2014 to help him settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former staffer due to concerns that details of the lawsuit could threaten his 2015 reelection campaign.

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