LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A real estate development consultant agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to a federal racketeering charge for his role in a wide-ranging pay-to-play scheme in which developers bribed a member of the Los Angeles City Council and other officials to ensure the success of their projects.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said 41-year-old George Chiang of Granada Hills would plead guilty to one county of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
In court documents filed Wednesday, Chiang admitted that he participated in a criminal enterprise called the Council District A Enterprise — a scheme prosecutors allege was led by a member of the council and involved people engaged in bribery and honest services fraud designed to enrich themselves, conceal their activities from authorities and the public and maintain and advance their political power.
Prosecutors allege the public officials involved in the enterprise received cash; consulting and retainer fees; political contributions; tickets to concerts, shows, and sporting events; and other gifts in exchange for affecting the success of development projects.
Chiang’s plea agreement contained a 22-page “factual basis” that details certain activities of the enterprise, including the allegation that one of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s former deputy mayors accepted money in exchange for shepherding a project through the approval process.
“The deputy mayor that you referred to was deputy mayor for less than a year in an acting capacity here, but that doesn’t matter,” Garcetti said Wednesday. “When one person does something like that, he soils everybody here at city hall.”
Garcetti further implored anyone with information about the probe, or any other alleged wrongdoing, to report it.
“And if anybody’s broken the law, I expect them to pay the price,” he said. “And if he or anybody else has broken the law, I hope they get the full extent of punishment from the laws.”
Chiang is the third person to agree to plead guilty in the continuing federal public corruption probe of City Hall.
Political fundraiser Justin Jangwoo Kim agreed in March to plead guilty to a single count of federal program bribery for facilitating a $500,000 cash payment to an unnamed council member.
Former Councilman Mitchell Englander agreed to plead guilty to engaging in a scheme to deceive the FBI, related to his cover up of cash payments and other gifts offered from a Los Angeles businessperson.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)