Top Los Angeles city official arrested on racketeering charges
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles City Council was arrested on Tuesday for extortion. The prosecutor said he ran his office as a "money-making criminal company" and received bribes from Chinese property developers and others in return for political influence.
Jose Huizar, 51, a Democrat whose district includes downtown Los Angeles, was detained without incident in his home in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. They said he was charged at the Los Angeles District Court and released on a $ 100,000 loan.
"This case has pulled back the curtain on rampant corruption at City Hall," US attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement. "City councilor Huizar has violated public confidence to an astonishing extent, and has allegedly requested and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from various sources for many years."
Later, the city council voted unanimously for the suspension of Huizar, who was elected for the first time in 2005 and whose fourth term in office ends this year. Representatives for Huizar could not be reached for comment.
Huizar's arrest concludes a lengthy investigation into corruption in America's second largest city. In November 2018, FBI agents ransacked Huizar's house, and prosecutors said the search found $ 129,000 hidden in a closet.
Four other defendants have agreed to plead guilty and work with prosecutors in the high-profile case, including George Esparza, a former top counselor to the city council.
Council President Nury Martinez said she would start cutting Huizar from the $ 200,000 position a year.
"It is our duty and we have to do it," said Martinez in the statement.
Allegations against Huizar in court documents include accepting $ 600,000 from representatives of a Chinese billionaire who was identified only as "Chairman E". These funds are said to have been used to settle a sexual assault complaint by a former employee.
In another case, Huizar accepted a $ 500,000 bribe from a person identified only as "Developer C" to settle a dispute with a work organization that is holding up a project, the prosecutor said.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by David Gregorio)
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