LA City Councilman to Plead Guilty to Obstructing Corruption Probe

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander agreed Friday to plead guilty to criminal charges of obstructing a federal probe of his actions while in office after a real estate developer showered him with cash, trips and expensive meals.

Englander, 49, surrendered to federal authorities earlier this month after a seven-count indictment accused him of interfering with an anti-corruption investigation into pay-to-play schemes involving LA public officials.

The former LA Council District 12 representative had previously pleaded not guilty.

Los Angeles City Hall. (Chris Marshall/CNS)

According to the indictment, an owner of commercial development companies sought favorable treatment from officials by lining Englander’s pockets with cash and showering him with expensive gifts.

On trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, Englander accepted cash, female escort services, pricey hotel stays and expensive meals from the businessman.

In one trip, Englander was put up at a pricey hotel and given an envelope with $10,000 in cash, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub, and a $2,481 dinner at a restaurant.

According to the plea agreement, Englander sought to cover up cash payments and other gifts from the developer, identified as Businessperson A in court documents.

The unidentified developer began cooperating with the FBI shortly after the Las Vegas trip, including by making secret recordings of his interactions with Englander.

Between August 2017 and December 2018, Englander knowingly falsified information about his interactions with the developer and concealed facts from investigators, the plea agreement said.

In 2017, after catching on to the FBI’s corruption probe, Englander began sending encrypted messages to the developer saying he wanted to reimburse him for the gifts he received.

Federal prosecutors say Englander also coordinated with the developer on statements to the FBI and coached him on how to lie to or mislead investigators about any gifts, including escort services.

Under the plea agreement, Englander admits to lying to federal agents in 2017 and 2018 about his conversations with Businessman A about the corruption probe.

On Dec. 31, 2018, the day he resigned from the LA City Council, Englander met with the FBI and federal prosecutors and lied again about receiving valuable gifts, according to the plea agreement.

Englander served briefly as the council’s president pro tem, was on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee – which oversees major commercial and residential development in LA – and was a reserve LAPD officer.

A court date has not yet been set for Englander to enter his new plea.

In a statement, Englander’s attorney Janet Levine of Kendall Brill Kelly said the former councilman is “embarrassed” by his actions.

“Mitch accepts full responsibility for his actions and is contrite and embarrassed by his conduct,” Levine said. “With the help and support of his family and friends, he will continue to move forward and look for new ways to contribute to his community.”

Federal authorities have also snagged a second individual as part of their ongoing public corruption probe.

Justin Jangwoo Kim, a 53-year-old real estate appraiser and political fundraiser, pleaded guilty on March 19 to coordinating a developer’s $200,000 bribe to an unnamed city councilmember.

The money was delivered to the councilman’s home in a liquor box by a city staffer.

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