25 March 2020.
A political fundraiser has agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery offense for coordinating a $500,000 cash payment that was intended to secure the help of an elected member of the Los Angeles City Council in resolving a labour organization’s appeal of a major real estate development project in the councilmember’s district.
Justin Jangwoo Kim, 53, a real estate appraiser and consultant, was a top fundraiser for Councilmember who is his close friend. Federal prosecutors in the Kim case did not identify the council member or say whether the person was still in office.
The bribery scheme developed in 2016 when a labour organization filed an appeal that claimed a real estate project violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). That appeal prevented the project from progressing. The developer then called Kim and sought his assistance in resolving the issue. The developer agreed to pay a bribe of $500,000. A city staffer has been the negotiator for the councilmember. He is identified in court documents as “City Staffer A-1.”
The plea agreement and indictment do not identify the Los Angeles city councilmember. The plea, signed by Kim on March 16, comes only 10 days after an indictment against former councilmember Mitch Englander, who surrendered to authorities on charges he “obstructed an investigation into him accepting cash, female escort services, hotel rooms and expensive meals from a businessman during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and later lied to the FBI about his conduct,” according to a statement from the FBI.
The court filings released Thursday indicate that Kim kept for himself at least $100,000 in cash, out of the $500,000 intended for Councilmember. CEQA appeal was dropped in March 2017. In early 2017, Kim met with the developer and received a paper bag containing $400,000 in cash. Kim dropped off money to the city staffer in a car, but kept a chunk of the cash for himself, the filing says. Kim received another $100,000 in cash from the developer in July, and also kept that money for himself. He did not report the cash payments on his federal tax return.
Kim has been directed to make his initial appearance in this case on March 31 at 2:00 p.m. in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. While Kim has agreed to plead guilty to the bribery offense alleged in the criminal information, he does not admit all of the factual allegations contained in that charging document.
Justice.gov reported on their website.