A Real Estate Developer Bribed a Councilman
Dae Yong “David” Lee, a real estate developer from Los Angeles, has gotten himself into trouble. In 2016, the man bribed a city official to get a real estate project approved. The person Lee bribed was Jose Huizar who was serving as LA city councilman at the time.
Lee desperately wanted a 20-story real estate tower project approved and approached Huizar with a bribe. According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Lee put forward $500,000 to convince the councilman to approve his project. The money was funneled through close acquaintances of Huizar’s, the prosecution stated.
However, Lee isn’t the first person to bribe Huizar.
Huizar Laundered Money through Casinos
Huizar allegedly accepted more than $1 million from Wei Huang and his firm, Shenzhen New World. In a case that very much resembles the one involving Lee, the councilman was bribed into allowing Wei to build a 77-story hotel. Huizar was to make sure that the Chinese billionaire’s project would go smoothly.
What’s more curious is how the transaction occurred. Since Huizar couldn’t just accept the money, he decided to launder them through Nevada casinos. Official footage from various casinos shows that he made eight trips to Las Vegas alongside Wei. At the venues, the Chinese billionaire would purchase ludicrous amounts of chips which Huizar would later exchange for money.
Huizar’s Partners Came Clean
Huizar denied both allegations. However, his assistants were not as stubborn. Justin Kim, Huizar’s right hand, pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge from June 2020. The man is now helping the police solve the cases.
George Esparza, Huizar’s personal assistant, also decided to come clean. A month after Kim admitted he took part in the scheme, Esparza also pleaded guilty. He confirmed that he assisted the Lee scheme and helped with two of the illegal transactions.
Lee’s attorney tried to put all the blame on Huizar. However, the jury would have none of it as wiretapped discussions proved his guilt. Thus, the court deemed Lee guilty of honest services wire fraud, bribery and falsification of records in federal investigations. He will now have to pay a $1.5 million fine and risks up to 50 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Huizar’s trial is to begin on February 21 next year. The corrupt ex-councilman faces decades in prison for his shady dealings with Lee and Wei.