The brother of former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, who faces federal racketeering charges stemming from a “pay-to-play” scheme, pleaded guilty to a charge connected to multiple envelopes suspiciously stuffed with cash, in a stunning admission that prosecutors say includes an agreement that he will take the stand against his own brother.
Salvador Huizar pleaded guilty to one felony count of making false statements to federal investigators, according to a DOJ release on Wednesday. There were at least 20 envelopes exchanged between Salvador and José Huizar between November 26, 2013, and August 22, 2018, prosecutors say. When Salvador asked his brother about the origin of the cash, the then-City Council member kept mum.
“It’s better you don’t know,” José Huizar told him, Salvador Huzlar told prosecutors in the plea agreement.
Salvador Huzlar would deposit the cash and then write “checks to José Huizar directly or to pay José Huizar’s expenses in the same amounts as the cash provided by José Huizar,” he also told investigators.
The former Council member’s brother confessed to lying to federal investigators about the cash several times. “As part of his plea agreement, Salvador Huizar has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation and has agreed to testify at the next two trials in this case.”
The guilty plea is a bombshell reversal as José Huizar and former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan are scheduled to go to trial on February 21 on federal racketeering charges. Prosecutors said the former city official allegedly raked in $1.5 million in “illicit financial benefits;” he faces dozens of additional federal criminal charges.
His brother’s decision to plead guilty is the latest blow to the former local leader. Huizar’s aide testified in the trial of an L.A. real estate developer who said he paid $500,00 to make a union problem go away. The aide, George Esparaza, told the court in the first of three trials connected to Huzlar’s alleged pay-to-play scheme, he took part in two 2017 “money drops,” carrying cash he picked up from an intermediary for David Lee to his boss in liquor boxes.
Lee was convicted in June of providing $500,000 in cash to José Huizar in exchange for stopping the unions from protesting his downtown Los Angeles development project and obstructing justice by falsifying financial documents.