Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander has reported to a federal penitentiary to begin serving a sentence of a year and two months for trying to obstruct an investigation into bribery allegations in City Hall politics, it was confirmed Wednesday morning.
Englander — who represented Council District 12 in the San Fernando Valley from July 2011 until he abruptly resigned three years ago after investigators began asking questions about his activities — was told to surrender Tuesday to begin serving his sentence.
A federal inmate registry said Englander has reported to the U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona, a high-security prison with an adjacent minimum-security satellite camp where Englander presumably will be held with about 90 other inmates.
The 50-year-old ex-councilman was also ordered to serve three years under supervised release following his prison term and pay a $15,000 fine. The registry said his release date is expected to be May 28, 2022.
At Englander’s January sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said “greed and arrogance” appeared to be the motivation for lying to the FBI repeatedly on three separate occasions and that Englander had damaged “the public’s trust in government.”
The judge said the defendant apparently believed his position of trust would protect him from being caught, and if he was charged, “the consequences won’t be significant.”
In a statement to the court, Englander admitted he had “shattered” his own reputation and said he did not fully understand what drove him to give false information to federal investigators.
The government had urged Walter to impose a two-year prison sentence, while the defense joined with probation officials in recommending a probationary sentence.
Englander, of Santa Monica, admitted to scheming to cover up $15,000 in cash payments, costly meals and other gifts offered to him from a businessman who sought to increase his business opportunities in the city. He pleaded guilty to scheming to falsify material facts, a federal charge carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Among his other duties, Englander served as the council president pro tempore and was a member of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which oversees many of the city’s biggest commercial and residential development projects.
Englander was a “powerful and wealthy Los Angeles city councilmember who swore an oath to serve the interests of his constituents,” prosecutors wrote. “He swore another oath as a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Police Department to uphold and protect the law. Instead, (he) illicitly cashed in on his status as a purported public servant in casino bathrooms and through VIP bottle service, luxury dinners, and behind hotel room doors.”
Prosecutors wrote in advance of Englander’s sentencing hearing that over “numerous incidents of escalating corruption and self-preservation, defendant sold out both oaths, cheaply and repeatedly. After resigning in the middle of his term after he was questioned in the instant investigation, defendant successfully parlayed his government service into a lucrative private practice position as a government consultant with a major entertainment company.”
Two months after a Las Vegas trip with Englander and others in 2017, the businessman began cooperating with the FBI in an investigation focused on suspected pay-to-play schemes involving Los Angeles public officials — including ex-councilman Jose Huizar — and made secret recordings of Englander’s interactions with him, federal prosecutors said.
Huizar, the central figure in the six-year probe of City Hall, is charged separately in a 41-count racketeering indictment alleging he accepted $1.5 million in bribes from developers in exchange for his support of downtown building projects.
The federal probe into suspected corruption in local politics also ensnared political operatives, lobbyists and the former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.
Huizar, who represented downtown L.A. and was the chairman of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He faces trial next May.