Federal prosecutors suggested at a hearing Thursday that FBI agents have obtained “a lot” of wiretap recordings that captured evidence of corruption inside LA City Hall, beyond the allegations contained in the indictment of former Councilman Mitch Englander.
Englander pleaded not guilty Monday to seven charges that accuse him of lying to the FBI and trying to convince others to lie — about trips to casinos in Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017 that were allegedly paid for by an unnamed businessman.
At the Thursday hearing an assistant US Attorney told the judge investigators learned of the Englander trips during an intercepted communication between two other LA City officials. Prosecutors and Englander’s defense attorney signed an agreement this week to keep the names of the other case participants and witnesses secret, another signal the corruption investigation at City Hall isn’t over.
The defense attorney, Janet Levine, said in a statement Monday, “despite this setback, with the support of his family and friends, he looks forward to continuing his lifelong contributions to the community that his given him so much.”
Englander, 49, had represented L.A. City Council District 12 — covering San Fernando Valley neighborhoods such as Granada Hills, Chatsworth and Northridge — from July 2011 until his sudden resignation at the end of 2018. That announcement, according to court filings, was made on the same day Englander was again questioned by FBI agents about his relationship with the unnamed businessman.
Englander has been indicted on one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements and three counts of witness tampering, which all together amount to a theoretical maximum sentence of up to 50 years in prison, though federal officials said that was extremely unlikely.
The criminal allegations suggested Englander had allegedly used his position on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which oversees many of the city’s most significant commercial and residential development projects, for personal gain.
The former lawmaker schemed “to cover up his acceptance of cash payments, expensive meals and escort services” from an unidentified businessman, federal prosecutors said in a statement. Prosecutors say the businessman “operated companies in Los Angeles relating to major development projects and sought to increase his business opportunities in the city.”
Englander, from August 2017 to December 2018, “willfully falsified and concealed material facts pertaining” to June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, the indictment alleges.
On the Las Vegas trip, Englander was handed an envelope with $10,000 cash, was sent a female escort, given $1,000 in casino gambling chips, received $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub and enjoyed a $2,481 dinner at a restaurant, according to the indictment.
And prosecutors allege that on the Palm Springs trip, Englander got an envelope with $5,000 in cash.
Federal officials said the businessman paid Englander for an introduction to another individual, identified as “Developer A” in the indictment, who is an architect and real estate developer, so that the businessman could sell his products for use in large construction projects.
Englander made his initial appearance before a judge late Monday afternoon and was released after his wife signed a $50,000 appearance bond.
When Englander left office he was the council’s only Republican.