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Los Angeles City councilman faces 34-count indictment in corruption probe

A federal grand jury on Thursday returned a 34-count indictment against Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar as part of an ongoing corruption investigation, CBS Los Angeles reports. Huizar, 51, has been accused of leading a criminal enterprise where prosecutors say he used his position at City Hall to enrich himself and his close associates.

Huizar was charged last month with one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Thursday's indictment charges Huizar with the following criminal charges: 12 counts of honest services wire fraud; two counts of honest services mail fraud; four counts of traveling interstate in aid of racketeering; six counts of bribery; five counts of money laundering; one count of structuring cash deposits to conceal bribes; one count of making a false statement to a financial institution; one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement; and one count of tax evasion, according to prosecutors.

Jose Huizar
Jose Huizar seen June 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Among the corruption allegations, Huizar is accused of illegally accepting more than $800,000 in benefits from an unidentified Chinese billionaire who runs a multinational development firm and who owns a hotel in Huizar's district.

Prosecutors say "Chairman E" provided $600,000 in collateral to fund the settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Huizar by a former congressional district staffer. The allegations threatened his 2015 reelection campaign.

The indictment alleges that Huizar operated the "CD-14 Enterprise," along with co-conspirators including "Individual 1," a former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and former deputy mayor; George Esparza, Huizar's former special assistant; and real estate development consultant George Chiang. Members and associates of the criminal enterprise referred to Huizar as their "boss," operated as a criminal organization, and worked together for common purposes, the indictment alleges.

According to prosecutors, the CD-14 Enterprise had several objectives, including enriching its members and associates through means that included bribery, extortion, and honest services fraud; advancing its political goals and maintaining its control and authority; concealing the enterprise's financial activities, and protecting the enterprise by concealing its activities and shielding the enterprise from detection by law enforcement, the city, and the public.

Huizar could face up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges. He is scheduled to appear via videoconference for his arraignment on August 3.

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