Jose Huizar’s brother to testify in federal corruption trial of former L.A. councilman after pleading guilty

Jose Huizar stands at a lectern with the seal of the city of Los Angeles
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery and other charges. His older brother, Salvador Huizar, admitted Wednesday to lying to FBI agents about receiving envelopes of cash from the former councilman.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The older brother of Jose Huizar admitted to lying to FBI agents about receiving envelopes of cash from Huizar and will cooperate with the federal government’s sprawling corruption investigation into the former Los Angeles city councilman.

On multiple occasions, Huizar gave his older brother, Salvador, envelopes of cash and asked him to write a check for the exact amount out of his own bank account, federal investigators said.

When Salvador Huizar asked about the money, Jose Huizar said it was better that he “did not know the source of the cash,” according to a plea agreement filed Wednesday by the councilman’s brother.


Salvador Huizar, 57, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of making false statements to federal investigators, admitting to repeatedly lying about the cash, including while under oath before a federal grand jury and as recently as two weeks ago when he was interviewed again by FBI agents.

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Prosecutors said Salvador Huizar laundered money for his brother more than 20 times from November 2013 to August 2018, either by writing a check or arranging to pay for his brother’s expenses.

Jose Huizar — who has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery and other charges — is accused of orchestrating a pay-to-play scheme by agreeing to accept $1.5 million in bribes from real estate developers who sought his favorable votes.

While in office, Jose Huizar was in charge of the committee that reviews real estate proposals at City Hall. As a result, he had the power to keep a development project off meeting agendas — creating delays and driving up construction costs — if he concluded that the developer had been unresponsive, according to former aide George Esparza.

Jose Huizar kept an internal spreadsheet that tracked development projects in his district, their consultants and “what the ask was,” Esparza said.

The door to the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar at City Hall.
FBI agents raid the City Hall office of then-Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar in November 2018.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The councilman spoke in crass terms about his demands, saying he wanted to see if the “cows are willing to give milk,” Esparza testified in June.

Jose Huizar was suspended from the City Council two years ago and eventually replaced after he was charged in the wide-ranging federal investigation into Los Angeles City Hall.

The criminal inquiry has resulted in multiple charges and convictions against real estate developers, former Councilman Mitch Englander and former aides.

Wednesday’s announcement is the first time prosecutors have identified Salvador Huizar by name. In previous court filings, he was referred to as Relative A-3. His attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Jose Huizar’s mother, Isidra Huizar, and his wife, Richelle Huizar, have also been referred to throughout the multiple cases in the investigation, but not by name. Neither of the women has been arrested or publicly charged.

As part of his plea agreement filed in the Central District of California, Salvador Huizar admitted he lied to investigators in 2018 when he claimed that his brother never asked him to write any checks, save for two occasions and for which he was not paid back. He also admitted he lied again to agents in January 2020 as well as two months later, when he testified before a federal grand jury.

Salvador Huizar will cooperate with the federal government’s investigation and will testify in the next two trials in the criminal case.

The first is scheduled to begin this month against Shen Zhen New World I, a limited liability company owned by real estate developer Wei Huang, who remains a fugitive and is accused of paying bribes to Huizar for favorable votes on a real estate project.

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Jose Huizar and former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan are set to go on trial in February on racketeering and other charges.

Real estate developer Dae Yong Lee and one of his companies were convicted in June of federal criminal charges for paying $500,000 to the former councilman and his special assistant in exchange for resolving a labor dispute that was holding up a development project and for falsifying financial documents.

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.