Former Los Angeles Councilman Mitch Englander surrendered to the FBI on Monday, pleading not guilty to obstructing an investigation on himself during incidents in Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017.
Englander had originally been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in January, but the actions on Monday made the charges official. He was formally 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 according to the Justice Department. If found guilty of all counts, Englander is looking at up to 50 years in federal prison.
Federal prosecutors noted that Englander had tried to cover up gifts he received from anonymous developers and businesspeople lobbying for Los Angeles-based projects. In June of 2017 Englander and two city staffers allegedly received an envelope containing $10,000 in cash in a casino bathroom, services from a female escort, hotel rooms, limo rides, VIP hotel amenities, $1,000 in casino gambling chips (of which some were returned), $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub, and a $2,481 dinner. This was followed up by a trip to Palm Springs a few weeks later in which Englander allegedly received an additional $5,000 in an envelope.
They also allege that Englander had taken several unusual measures to avoid being caught. Prosecutors maintain that Englander had used a messaging app to avoid tipping off authorities while in Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Englander is also being accused of turning music up to a high volume in cars in the event of any recording devices listening in while also being driven around to hide the meeting itself.
Other allegations also included Englander instructing those giving him gifts to lie to federal agents, with Englander himself also lying to the FBI and the Justice Department.
Englander, a Republican who served on the Los Angeles City Council from 2011 until his resignation in 2018, was not giving statements following his arraignment. However, his lawyer Janet Levine maintained Englander’s commitment to the city.
“He is proud of the work he has done to serve his community,” stated Levine in a statement. “Despite this setback, with the support of his family and friends, he looks forward to continuing his lifelong contributions to the community that has given him so much.”
Political analysts have said that such charges would be hard to come back from.
“It’s hard to tell this early, but from what the Justice Department release says, it doesn’t look that good,” noted lawyer Lynette Mendoza. “It’s good to see lawmakers facing justice for illegal things, regardless of party or popularity, but we need to remember that they’re also innocent until proven guilty We live in a society of laws, and everyone is covered. Including politicians, but also especially politicians.”
Englander was released on a $50,000 bond after the arraignment and is currently awaiting a trial date.
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