A federal decide on Friday sentenced a downtown Los Angeles actual property developer to 6 years in jail for offering money bribes to former Metropolis Councilmember Jose Huizar, then trying to cover the transaction from investigators.
Dae Yong Lee, who additionally goes by David Lee, was discovered responsible final 12 months of giving $500,000 in bribes in alternate for the approval of a 20-story residential tower on Olympic Boulevard and Hill Avenue. He was additionally convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
Lee, showing earlier than the decide, apologized for his actions, saying he had created “a lot ache and heartbreak” for his spouse, his household and the folks round him.
“As a result of my greed and ambition, I did one thing I’ll remorse for the remainder of my life,” the Bel-Air resident informed the courtroom.
U.S. Dist. Courtroom Decide John F. Walter mentioned he took under consideration letters despatched to the courtroom from Lee’s household and supporters, notably his spouse’s characterization of him as “a great man who made an enormous mistake.” However Walter mentioned Lee’s crimes — bribing an elected official after which ordering a subordinate to falsify his firm’s inside document of that transaction — merited a sentence that might function “a warning to others.”
“The courtroom should ship a message to discourage others who’re in related conditions from partaking in related crimes,” he mentioned.
Lee, the primary determine within the Huizar scandal to go on trial, was additionally ordered to pay a $750,000 monetary penalty. His growth firm, 940 Hill, was individually sentenced to 5 years of probation and fined $1.5 million.
The case in opposition to Lee and 940 Hill was among the many extra sensational of the schemes spelled out within the federal indictment of Huizar, who pleaded responsible to racketeering and tax evasion expenses earlier this 12 months. Throughout Lee’s trial, a former Huizar aide testified that he twice picked up paper luggage of money from a guide working for Lee, saying the cash was supposed for Huizar and distributed in stacks of $100 payments.
George Esparza, who labored as Huizar’s particular assistant, described throughout the trial how, at one level, he delivered $100,000 in a Don Julio tequila field to the council member’s Boyle Heights residence in 2017.
A onetime aide to former Metropolis Councilmember Jose Huizar, who testified final 12 months within the trial of businessman Dae Yong Lee, admitted delivering a Don Julio tequila field crammed with money to his boss’ residence.
(U.S. District Courtroom)
Esparza, who later pleaded responsible to a single racketeering cost, took copious notes on his felony actions, at one level writing the phrases “Giving money to CM Huizar 2/10/2017” on a serviette. He then photographed the serviette.
Huizar, who served on the council from 2005 to 2020, is scheduled to be sentenced in December. Esparza, who can also be awaiting sentencing, should still be known as as a witness in an upcoming trial stemming from the Huizar case.
Prosecutors had requested for Lee to be sentenced to seven years in jail, saying it will dissuade others from partaking in political corruption. Of their submitting, they repeatedly highlighted Lee’s wealth, saying he “loved a lavish way of life” and had intensive actual property holdings.
In 2015, Lee proposed the development of a $170-million high-rise just a few blocks east of the L.A. Reside leisure advanced. His challenge quickly drew opposition from a gaggle of building commerce unions, which threatened to sluggish or halt the approval course of for his challenge, including tens of millions in extra growth prices.
Lee agreed to offer Huizar, who represented a lot of downtown and wielded monumental energy over actual property choices, a money bribe to make sure that the council member would oppose the union problem, prosecutors mentioned.
“He wasn’t below monetary strain, like some persons are,” mentioned Assistant U.S. Atty. Cassie Palmer. “He had some huge cash and needed extra.”
Attorneys for Lee requested leniency, asking for a 20-month sentence. Lee’s devotion to his household, his buddies and his religion all warranted a decrease sentence, his legal professionals mentioned.
“The restricted window of conduct that was offered at trial doesn’t precisely mirror the hardworking, sincere individual that he has been in all different facets of his life,” wrote Lee’s lawyer, Ariel A. Neuman.
Throughout Friday’s listening to, Neuman objected to the prosecution’s repeated deal with his shopper’s wealth. He additionally argued that Lee was receiving disparate remedy when in comparison with Huizar, who has admitted duty for a a lot larger quantity of felony exercise.
Huizar reached a plea settlement earlier this 12 months through which prosecutors agreed to not search greater than 13 years in jail. Walter, the federal decide, informed the protection lawyer he won’t be sure to that settlement when he points his sentence.
Huizar is one among a number of high-profile figures at Metropolis Corridor to face felony expenses lately. Former Metropolis Councilmember Mitchell Englander, who stepped down in 2018, pleaded responsible three years in the past to offering false data to investigators, which resulted in a 14-month jail sentence.
Former Metropolis Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas was convicted earlier this 12 months on conspiracy, bribery and fraud expenses and is awaiting sentencing. In the meantime, Councilmember Curren Worth is preventing perjury, embezzlement and conflict-of-interest expenses, which have been filed by the district lawyer’s workplace earlier this 12 months.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Mack Jenkins mentioned he hoped that Lee’s sentence would function a deterrent to political corruption. He identified the decide’s sentence was practically 4 occasions longer than the one sought by Lee.
“We predict future criminals will be aware of that,” he mentioned.