In a stunning development, former city councilman Mitch Englander turned himself in to the FBI this morning, and was taken into custody after being named in a seven-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury earlier this year. He faces criminal charges for obstructing justice into an investigation that allegedly involved him accepting money, female escorts, and more.
This comes about 17 months after Englander shocked city hall by abruptly announcing that he would resign his 12th District Council seat despite having more than two years remaining in his term. In October 2018, Englander said he would vacate the post, which pays more than $200,000, and take a job in the private sector with Oak View Group, a company that works in the sports and live entertainment industry.
Englander stepped down from his council seat at the end of the 2018.
According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Englander, 49, has been charged with one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements and three counts of witness tampering. He is scheduled to be arraigned today at 2 p.m. in the Roybal Federal Building and Courthouse in downtown.
According to the indictment, Englander, who lives in Santa Monica, accepted an assortment of gifts from an individual identified only as Businessperson A during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs. He was accompanied on the trip by two city staffers, a lobbyist, and a developer.
According to the indictment, Businessperson A gave Englander “an envelope with $10,000 in cash, services from a female escort, hotel rooms, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub, and a $2,481 dinner at a restaurant.”
Two months after the Las Vegas trip, Businessperson A began cooperating with an FBI investigation into public corruption and suspected “pay-to-play” schemes involving public officials in the city.
That investigation has engendered widespread speculation in Los Angeles. In November 2018, FBI agents raided the home and offices of District 14 Councilman José Huizar, and search warrants that were later revealed referenced examining records of other city officials, appointees and real estate developers. Englander had not been publicly named before today.
Huizar, who is termed out at the end of this year, has not been arrested or charged with any crime.
The indictment adds that while at a golf tournament in Palm Springs on June 12, 2017, Businessperson A also gave Englander an envelope containing $5,000 in cash.
The Justice Department statement notes, “Shortly after the trips, Englander arranged for Businessperson A to pitch his business to a friend of Englander’s who was a developer.”
Englander was first elected to the post representing constituents in the deep San Fernando Valley in 2011, and was given a second term four years later. He rose in the ranks, and then-Council President Herb Wesson eventually named him council president pro tempore. While on the council, Englander served on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which holds immense power over proposed development projects in the city.
The indictment asserts that, after Englander learned of the FBI investigation in August 2017, he sent an encrypted message to Businessperson A saying he wanted to reimburse him for portions of the Las Vegas trip. Englander allegedly made these requests through the online message service Confide.
Additionally, the indictment alleges that, at least three times, Englander tried to persuade Businessperson A either to provide false statements to the FBI, or omit relevant information. That includes an encounter on Feb. 12, 2018, when, according to the indictment, Englander and Businessperson A met in the councilman’s car, and Englander instructed him to lie to the FBI. Englander allegedly did this while turning up the volume on the car stereo to obstruct possible listening devices, and driving around the block in a circle.
Englander also lied to the FBI and federal prosecutors three times in 2017 and 2018, according to the indictment. It asserts that, on February 7, 2018, he falsely told investigators that he and Businessperson A had not discussed the FBI investigation.
If ultimately convicted of the seven charges, Englander could face up to 50 years in federal prison.
The FBI statement notes that the charges against Englander are part of an ongoing public corruption investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
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