A former Los Angeles city councilman has been indicted on charges that he obstructed an investigation into whether he took thousands of dollars, female escort services and other gifts from a businessman involved in major developments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.
Mitch Englander, 49, surrendered to FBI agents Monday morning to face arraignment. He is charged with one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements and three counts of witness tampering, prosecutors said. Englander, who represented a council district from July 2011 until he resigned on Dec. 31, 2018, was scheduled for an afternoon appearance in federal court. Englander's attorney Janet Levine said in an email she would comment after her client's arraignment.
Prosecutors allege he tried to cover up gifts given to him during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs by a person identified in the indictment as “Businessperson A,” who operates companies involving major development projects. “Two months after the Las Vegas trip, Businessperson A began cooperating with the FBI in a public corruption investigation focused on suspected `pay-to-play’ schemes involving Los Angeles public officials,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release said. In Las Vegas, Englander allegedly received an envelope containing $10,000 in cash, services from a female escort, hotel rooms, $1,000 in casino gambling chips, $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub and a $2,481 dinner. In Palm Springs, he allegedly received $5,000 in an envelope. The indictment alleges that after discovering the investigation, Englander made multiple efforts to get Businessperson A to give false information to the FBI and also directly lied to the FBI and federal prosecutors.
The indictment comes amid an ongoing FBI probe into public corruption at Los Angeles City Hall where officials are looking into possible “pay to play” schemes involving city officials, investors, lobbyists, developers and others. Last summer, the FBI served search warrants at City Hall, the Department of Water and Power, as well as the home and office of City Councilmember Jose Huizar, though he has not been charged publicly in the probe.
With files from the Associated Press