Los Angeles

Former Huizar Aide Agrees to Plead Guilty in Federal ‘Pay-to-Play' Corruption Scheme

Earlier this month LA City Council president Nury Martinez sent a letter to Jose Huizar directing him to stop attending council meetings amid the widening investigation.

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A former aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar agreed to plead guilty to federal charges Wednesday in connection with a widening "pay-to-play" corruption investigation inside LA City Hall that's already ensnared a real estate consultant, a political fundraiser, and a former councilman.

George Esparza, who served as a "special assistant" to Huizar until 2017, will admit to taking part in a conspiracy to allegedly enrich its participants, "through means that included bribery, extortion, and mail and wire fraud, including through the deprivation of honest services of city officials and employees," according to court documents.

The plea agreement and criminal complaint made public Wednesday also allege that an individual identified as, "Councilmember A," accepted $215,000 in bribes and benefits in the form of casino gambling chips, trips on private jets, hotel rooms, spa services, meals, alcohol, and, "prostitution/escort services."

Councilmember A is separately described in the complaint as Esparza's boss, meaning Huizar, though the councilman's name is not printed in the filing.

The case centers on bribes allegedly paid by developers and consultants to ensure certain construction projects were approved by the Council and its powerful Planning and Land Use Management, or PLUM, committee.

FBI agents served search warrants at Huizar's home and offices in November, 2018, though he has not been arrested or charged.

Earlier this month LA City Council president Nury Martinez sent a letter to Huizar directing him to stop attending council meetings amid the widening investigation.

Esparza is the fourth person who's agreed to plead guilty.

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