A Chinese real estate developer was convicted of spending more than $1 million to bribe a former Los Angeles City council member to build a skyscraper.
Shen Zhen New World I LLC was found guilty on all counts it was charged with — honest service wire fraud, interstate and foreign travel in aid of bribery and bribery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said.
Wei Huang, Shen Zhen’s owner and Chinese national who has a home in San Marino, California, is also charged as part of the case, but authorities believe he is a fugitive and staying in China.
Shen Zhen bought the L.A. Grand Hotel in 2010 and filed to redevelop the site into a 77-story mixed-use skyscraper in 2018.
Prosecutors said that between February 2013 and November 2018, the Chinese company provided Councilman José Huizar and an aide with a variety of gifts in exchange for Mr. Huizar’s advocacy and approval of the project.
The gifts included cash, casino gambling chips, stays at luxury Las Vegas hotels and casinos, expensive meals, spa and prostitution services, private and commercial flights, political contributions and $600,000 so Mr. Huizar could quietly settle a pending sexual harassment lawsuit brought forward by a former staffer who threatened his career, the Justice Department said.
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Mr. Huizar was first elected to the city council in 2005, but he stepped down in 2020 amid the federal corruption probe. The former councilman pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges in late 2020.