The LA Podcast

Tag "Corruption"

A Co-Conspirator on City Council


by Scott Frazier
January 13, 2021

As City Councilmember Mitchell Englander drove in furtive circles through the thicket of one-way streets downtown, he turned to his passenger and whispered under the din of the radio. Moments before, he had boosted the volume to an ache-inducing roar, the better to hide his words if someone happened to be listening. It was imperative that no one should hear him roughly coaching the man sitting next to him to deliver short rehearsible falsehoods:

“You just say ‘I was so drunk I don’t remember calling.’”

“‘No I didn’t arrange a massage for anybody.’”

“‘He shook my hand and said hello, that was it.’”

“‘He asked me a couple times how much does he owe me, he and John owe me, and I didn’t have an amount.’”

“‘…he and John owe me…’”

“‘…he and John…’”

ImageEnglander: “I couldn’t be happier… we couldn’t ask for a better representative for CD12.” Quote and screen capture from Councilmember John Lee’s Public Swearing-In Ceremony.

The passenger, Andy Wang, a purveyor of […]

Continue Reading

Three Suits to the Wind


by Scott Frazier
June 12, 2020

Preface: What Makes Sense

On May 27th, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California released a plea agreement signed by George Esparza, a high-ranking former assistant to outgoing 14th district councilmember José Huizar. Esparza is only the latest among the members of what appears to be a vast bribery ring in City Hall who has agreed to plead guilty to charges including racketeering, bribery, and attempting to conceal criminal activity from federal investigators.

Over the course of the past three months, the still in-progress investigation led by the attorneys of the Central District’s Public Corruption Section has netted plea agreements from disgraced former District 12 Councilmember Mitch Englander and real estate consultants George Chiang and Justin Kim. The plea deals have thrust to the fore questions about the conduct and integrity of some of the city’s most prominent public figures.

At the same time, these early legal victories have bolstered the FBI’s claims of a years-long and much wider conspiracy […]

Continue Reading

John Lee: Resignation or Recall


by Scott Frazier
March 19, 2020

On March 9 – barely more than a week ago, but in a Los Angeles that nonetheless belongs to the irrecoverable pre-pandemic past – Mitchell Englander surrendered himself to federal custody in response to a warrant issued for his arrest. Englander, who, as a councilmember from 2011 until 2018, was until recently one of the most powerful people in the city, now has been formally accused of contriving during the final 16 months of his tenure to obstruct the ongoing FBI investigation into the corruption pervasive within City Hall.

If the indictment, handed down by a grand jury in January and unsealed last week, should prove true, Englander was exercising his influence as a member of the Planning and Land Use Management committee to connect a smart-home and cabinet vendor with some of the wealthiest apartment builders in the county. The indictment details trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, replete with clichés of low-rent criminality – gambling, lavish nightlife, transactional […]

Continue Reading