A federal judge sentenced former Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitchell Englander to 14 months in federal prison for his conduct surrounding his obstruction of a public corruption investigation into his acceptance of gifts – including $15,000 in cash – from a businessman during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017.
Englander schemed to cover up cash payments, expensive meals, escort services and other gifts offered to him from Businessperson A. Businessperson A wanted to increase his business opportunities in the city. From August 2017 until December 2018, Englander knowingly and willfully falsified and concealed material facts pertaining to the federal public corruption investigation. Specifically, Englander covered up facts that he had accepted items of value during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs and that he directed a witness to lie to and mislead federal investigators.
During the Las Vegas trip, Englander accepted from Businessperson A an envelope containing $10,000 in cash, a hotel room, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub, and a $2,481 group dinner. Businessperson A also paid for two female escorts to arrive at their hotel and instructed one of the escorts to go to Englander's room. At a golf tournament in Palm Springs, Englander accepted an envelope containing $5,000 in cash from Businessperson A. Shortly after the trips, Englander arranged for Businessperson A to pitch his business to a friend of Englander's who was a developer. The federal prosecutors argued that, after learning about the federal investigation into his conduct, Englander sent a reimbursement check to Businessperson A, backdating the check “to give the impression he intended to reimburse the expenses before the FBI reached out to request an interview.” About three times, Englander tried to coordinate statements he made to the FBI and federal prosecutors with Businessperson A, and Englander counseled Businessperson A how to lie to and mislead the FBI agents and federal prosecutors conducting the public corruption investigation. Englander also made false statements to the FBI and federal prosecutors three times 2017 and 2018.
Englander was the first person to be charged in Casino Loyale, the ongoing FBI and U.S. Attorney's office corruption investigation. Casino Loyale has focused on a wide-ranging “pay-to-play” scheme in which developers bribed Los Angeles city officials to get official acts to benefit their real estate projects. Nine people and two businesses have now been charged in the Casino Loyale investigation, including Jose Huizar, the lead defendant in a sweeping racketeering indictment that alleges he agreed to accept at least $1.5 million in illicit financial benefits while serving as the leader of a criminal enterprise. A jury trial for Huizar and several other defendants is scheduled for June 22.