LOS ANGELES (AP) — A company owned by a billionaire Chinese real estate developer was convicted on Nov. 10 of paying more than $1 million bribes to a Los Angeles city councilmember for help in getting a downtown project approved.
Shen Zhen New World I LLC was found guilty of eight counts of honest services wire fraud, bribery and interstate and foreign travel in aid of bribery, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
The company is expected to face a multimillion-dollar fine during a sentencing hearing next January.
The company’s owner, Wei Huang, 57, also was charged in the federal case but he is a fugitive and is believed to be in China, prosecutors said.
From 2013 to 2018, Shen Zhen bribed Jose Huizar to help obtain city approval to build a 77-story tower that would have been the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River, prosecutors said.
At the time, the councilmember chaired the city’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
Huizar allegedly received cash, casino gambling chips, luxury stays in Las Vegas, expensive meals, prostitution services, political contributions and funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Prosecutors say the bribes were part of Huizar’s pay-to-play scheme tied to approval of downtown developments. He has pleaded not guilty to a 41-count indictment accusing him of bribery, racketeering, fraud and money laundering.
The Shen Zhen conviction is the latest in a sweeping and ongoing City Hall corruption probe. Nine defendants have been convicted or pleaded guilty to federal charges, including Huizar’s brother, Salvador Huizar; a former Huizar assistant, a Huizar fundraiser and another real estate developer.
Huizar is scheduled for trial in February along with former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, who also has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges.