By FRED SHUSTER, City News Service
Jose Huizar was reportedly escorted out of a Las Vegas casino while serving as a Los Angeles city councilor after being identified by employees as an elected official and a “politically exposed person” and refusing to certify the source of his money of gambling, according to filed documents. by federal prosecutors on Monday, December 20.
The new papers were filed in federal court in Los Angeles in opposition to Huizar’s attempt to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a search warrant. Prosecutors cite a 36-page sworn affidavit from an FBI special agent that was used to substantiate the warrant.
Huizar, the central figure in a six-year investigation into suspicion of corruption in City Hall politics, and his associates were allegedly involved in a $ 1.5 million pay-to-gamble scheme in which Real estate developers have been rocked for cash and campaign donations in return for help getting construction projects through the city’s approval process. He is due to be tried in May.
The affidavit details alleged evidence from various sources – including several witnesses, hotel and casino records, theft records – establishing that between 2014 and 2016, Huizar made at least eight gambling trips to Las Vegas with a billionaire Chinese developer with business on his board. piece.
Huizar’s federal public defense attorney Charles Snyder did not immediately respond to a City News Service request for comment.
Huizar, who represented downtown Los Angeles and was the chairman of the land use planning and management committee, denied all the allegations. A hearing to discuss the progress of the case is set for January 31.
The affidavit states that during the former city councilor’s fifth trip to the Palazzo casino with his co-accused Wei Huang, president of a China-based global development company, casino staff allegedly detected “suspicious activity between the two and provided evidence of this suspicious activity. to the FBI.
The alleged evidence included surveillance footage of Huizar playing with Huang and two other co-defendants in an “upscale high-end gambling hall” and sharing Huang’s casino chips, according to the affidavit.
Additionally, gaming records show that Huizar played and ultimately cashed in tens of thousands of dollars in tokens that he did not purchase, and hotel records indicate that the developer offered Huizar transportation to private jet and luxury accommodation, prosecutors say.
The newly filed documents include references to alleged sightings of Palazzo employees, some of whom described their interactions with Huizar when they confronted him and asked him to sign documents intended to confirm that as an elected official and “a politically exposed person”, he had an “independent source of wealth sufficient to demonstrate that he was gambling with his own money”.
Huizar refused to sign the documents, giving the impression that he was trying to “stay under the radar” and was escorted out of the gambling area for failing to provide information “to allay the casino’s suspicions that he engaged in corrupt activities on its premises, ”state prosecutors allege.
In addition to the five trips to the Palazzo – which affidavit notes ended after hotel compliance officers identified Huizar and asked him to certify the source of his gambling money – prosecutors allege Huizar has accompanied Huang on three subsequent gambling trips to various Las Vegas casinos.
It is also alleged that Huizar used his mother’s and brother’s bank accounts to launder the bribe payments he received from Huang and another person, according to government documents.
Huizar’s lawyers argue that more than three years of personal emails held by the government as evidence in the corruption case against the ex-adviser should be deleted because the seizure violated his constitutional rights.
Defense attorneys say that in July 2016, as part of the first days of the corruption investigation, the government requested and received a warrant to search for 39 months of Huizar’s personal emails, but the affidavit in support of the warrant application “lacked probable cause” and provided no basis for obtaining the emails.
Huizar’s lawyers have previously argued that the bribery case against the ex-adviser should be dismissed because the alleged conduct does not violate laws cited in the federal racketeering indictment on 41 counts.
In the indictment, prosecutors mistake favors for bribes, consider contributions protected by the First Amendment crimes, and treat “virtually everything Huizar has done as an” official act. ” it doesn’t matter how informal or out of touch with government power, “according to a prior defense. movement.
The federal investigation trapped lobbyists, developers such as Huang and political agents, including former city official Raymond Chan. A former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Security, Chan was most recently the city’s deputy mayor of economic development.
Defense attorneys argue that Huizar’s only crime was to act as a “solid development evangelist” whose mission as the representative of District Council 14 was to bring hotels, apartments, jobs, tourism and entertainment in the downtown area of the city, according to court documents.
The defense argues that Huizar and Chan saw it as their responsibility to bring development and business to downtown Los Angeles. Partly through their work, “the region has become a pleasant and attractive destination for locals and tourists. During this time, almost everyone in Los Angeles has spoken or heard about how downtown has improved.
Co-defendants George Esparza, Huizar’s former special assistant, real estate development consultant George Chiang and fundraiser Justin Kim each pleaded guilty to federal charges last year.