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Real Estate Developer Gets Six-Year Sentence for Bribing LA Councilman in Corruption Scandal

David Lee Was Also Fined $750,000, and His Company Was Fined $1.5 Million

By Dolores Quintana

Dae Yong Lee, also known as “David Lee,” a real estate developer, has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for paying $500,000 in bribes to a Los Angeles city councilman in exchange for assistance with a downtown project.

Along with the prison sentence, Lee has been fined $750,000, and a company under his control has been fined $1.5 million, in addition to prosecution costs, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

In 2017, Lee engaged in bribery, offering payments to José Huizar, the councilman, and his special assistant to take steps to stop a labor organization’s appeal that was hindering the approval of a planned development comprising more than 200 residences and approximately 14,000 square feet (1,300 square meters) of commercial space. At the time, Huizar served as chair of the city’s influential Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

According to prosecutors, the bribes were delivered in cash, with Lee making three payments totaling $500,000 to Huizar’s assistant, George Esparza.

Lee and his company have already been convicted on charges of bribery, honest services wire fraud, and falsifying records in an attempt to conceal the illegal payments in 2022. The case forms part of a broader corruption investigation centered around Huizar, who has been accused of running a pay-to-play bribery scheme from 2013 to 2017 connected to the approval of downtown high-rise developments.

In January, Huizar pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion. His sentencing is scheduled for September 25. As part of a plea agreement, Huizar has committed to seeking a minimum nine-year prison sentence, as per prosecutors.

Numerous other individuals have also been implicated in the corruption scheme, with more than half a dozen convicted or having pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the scandal, including Huizar’s brother, Salvador Huizar. Esparza, who previously pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy in July 2020, testified against Lee during his trial.

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