Lobbyist Agrees to Plead Guilty in City Hall Bribery Scheme in Which City Councilman Jose Huizar Supported Developer in Exchange for PAC Donations
LOS ANGELES – Federal prosecutors today filed a criminal information charging a longtime Los Angeles City Hall lobbyist and close associate of City Councilman Jose Huizar with participating in a bribery scheme in which he brokered deals where a developer client agreed to make $50,000 in political donations in exchange for Huizar’s official actions for the developer’s benefit.
Morris Roland Goldman, a.k.a. “Morrie,” 57, of Porter Ranch, was charged today with one count of conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud.
In a plea agreement also filed today in United States District Court, Goldman agreed to plead guilty to the felony offense and cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation.
According to the court documents, Goldman was a lobbyist for “Company M,” which had a pending development project in the city’s Arts District. Goldman was one of several people who established two political action committees, one of which purportedly supported a variety of causes, but actually was created to primarily benefit the City Council campaign of Huizar’s relative, known in court papers as “Relative A-1.” If elected, Relative A-1 would help Huizar and his associates “maintain a political stronghold in the city,” according to court documents.
In his plea agreement, Goldman admits that in September 2018 he agreed with Huizar and a Company M executive that the developer would contribute $50,000 to a PAC established to support Relative A-1’s political campaign. In exchange, Huizar would vote against a union appeal of Company M’s project in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired at the time.
Court documents also outline how Goldman secured commitments from Company M to contribute to PACs at Huizar’s request prior to September 2018. Between November 2016 and March 2017, Company M contributed a total of $50,000 to a PAC used to benefit Huizar’s political causes. In June 2018, Goldman secured a $25,000 contribution to the PAC designed to elect Relative A-1, as well as a commitment for an additional $25,000 contribution. Company M’s project ultimately received significant benefits in the city approval process. For example, the City Council’s approval of Company M’s request to reduce the project’s availability of low-income housing – despite its proximity to Skid Row – netted the company approximately $14 million in savings, court papers state.
Out of the $150,000 in donations agreed to by the developer, $75,000 was actually paid, with the final payments being derailed by an FBI search of Huizar’s home and offices in November 2018.
Goldman is now the sixth defendant to be charged as a result of Operation “Casino Loyale,” an FBI investigation into corruption at Los Angeles City Hall. Four defendants, including former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
On August 3, Huizar pleaded not guilty to charges in a 34-count racketeering indictment that alleges he led a criminal enterprise designed to enrich himself and his associates, give favorable treatment to developers involved in the payment of bribes, and elect his relative to preserve the enterprise’s power when his term expired at the end of this year. Huizar’s trial is scheduled for June 22, 2021.
Goldman has agreed to surrender in this case and make his first court appearance on September 23. Once he pleads guilty to the conspiracy count, Goldman will face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
The cases against Goldman, Huizar and the other defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mack E. Jenkins, Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, and Assistant United States Attorneys Veronica Dragalin and Melissa J. Mills, also of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.
Any member of the public who has information related to this or any other public corruption matter in the City of Los Angeles is encouraged to send information to the FBI’s email tip line at firstname.lastname@example.org or to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.