Los Angeles–A former Los Angeles city councilman surrendered to FBI agents this morning to face criminal charges that he obstructed an investigation into him accepting cash, female escort services, hotel rooms and expensive meals from a businessman during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and later lied to the FBI about his conduct.
Mitchell Englander, 49, of Santa Monica, was taken into custody after being named in a seven-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on January 16. Englander is expected to be arraigned this afternoon at 2:00 in the Roybal Federal Building and Courthouse.
The indictment charges Englander with one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements, and three counts of witness tampering.
Englander represented Los Angeles Council District 12 in the San Fernando Valley from July 2011 until he abruptly resigned on December 31, 2018, when he had almost two years left on his term. Among his other duties, Englander served as the Council President Pro-Tempore and was on the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, which oversees many of the most significant commercial and residential development projects in the City of Los Angeles.
The indictment alleges that he schemed to cover up his acceptance of cash payments, expensive meals and escort services from a businessman – identified in the indictment as Businessperson A – who operated companies in Los Angeles relating to major development projects and sought to increase his business opportunities in the city. 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.
According to the indictment, from August 2017 through December 2018, Englander knowingly and willfully falsified and concealed material facts pertaining to this federal public corruption investigation. Specifically, Englander covered up facts that he had accepted items of value during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, the indictment alleges.
On that trip, when he was accompanied by two city staffers, a lobbyist and a real estate developer, Englander accepted from Businessperson A an envelope with $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 at a restaurant, according to the indictment. Later, at a golf tournament in Palm Springs on June 12, 2017, Businessperson A allegedly gave Englander an envelope containing $5,000 in cash. Shortly after the trips, Englander arranged for Businessperson A to pitch his business to a friend of Englander’s who was a developer.
In August 2017, after he learned about the FBI’s public corruption investigation, Englander privately sent an encrypted message to Businessperson A via the online messaging service Confide, indicating that he now wanted to reimburse him for portions of the June 2017 Las Vegas trip, the indictment alleges.
The indictment alleges that, on at least three occasions, Englander attempted to corruptly persuade Businessperson A to provide false and misleading information, and omit relevant information from the FBI and federal prosecutors conducting the public corruption investigation. On February 6, 2018, Englander allegedly instructed Businessperson A to lie to the FBI, withhold material information from the FBI, and how to answer certain questions from the FBI, including questions about escort services provided by Businessperson A and Englander’s purported attempts to reimburse Businessperson A. On February 12, 2018, Englander allegedly met Businessperson A in Englander’s car and, after Englander turned up the car stereo music to a loud volume to obstruct possible listening devices, Englander again repeatedly instructed Businessperson A to lie to the FBI while driving in a circle around the block to conceal their meeting.
The indictment further alleges that Englander made false statements to the FBI and federal prosecutors on three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018. For example, on February 7, 2018, Englander falsely stated that he and Businessperson A had not discussed the FBI or its investigation, and that he did not instruct anyone on what to say to the FBI. On December 31, 2018, the day he resigned from the Los Angeles City Council, Englander again met with the FBI and federal prosecutors, and made additional false statements about receiving personal benefits from Businessperson A, and also falsely stated that he encouraged Businessperson A to “be transparent, and share everything” with the FBI, the indictment alleges.
If convicted of the seven charges in the indictment, Englander would face a statutory maximum penalty of 50 years in federal prison.