Rafu Wire and Staff Reports
Loraine Lundquist, who ran against Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee in the March 3 election, is saying that he should resign if he was involved in the scandal for which his former boss was indicted.
Former Councilmember Mitchell Englander was arrested Monday on federal charges of lying to the FBI during a probe of his alleged acceptance of cash, female escort services, hotel rooms and meals from an unidentified businessman during trips to Las Vegas and Cabazon.
Englander, who left the council seat in 2018 for a job in the private sector, pleaded not guilty and was granted a $50,000 bond at his initial appearance in Los Angeles federal court following his surrender to FBI agents Monday morning. A trial-setting conference was scheduled for Thursday morning.
Englander was named in a seven-count grand jury indictment handed down in January and faces one count of scheming to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements and three counts of witness tampering. He faces up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted of all charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Federal authorities allege Englander was trying cover up his acceptance of cash and other services from a businessman who “operated companies in Los Angeles relating to major development projects and sought to increase his business opportunities in the city.” He allegedly accepted the cash and services during June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, near Palm Springs.
Lee, who now represents Council District 12, as did Englander, confirmed he was one of the city staffers on the Las Vegas trip. Lee was Englander’s chief of staff at the time.
“I did everything in my power to pay for and reimburse expenses related to this trip,” Lee said in a statement to City News Service. “I was unaware of any illegal activities for which councilmember Englander is being charged. I completely cooperated with the FBI when they contacted me for voluntary interviews in July and August 2017 and will continue to do so.”
Lundquist, who continues to trail Lee in results from March 3, said via Facebook, “Now that John Lee has admitted to participating in the Vegas incident in question, is he specifically admitting to being Staffer B named in the indictment?
“If John Lee is, in fact, Staffer B, the indictment says he participated in the coverup by backdating his ‘reimbursement’ check after being interviewed by the FBI. If that is the case, he should resign immediately.”
Voters should have had this “critical information” before going to the polls, Lundquist told The Los Angeles Times. “What did John Lee know, when did he know it, and was he involved in the cover-up?” she asked.
As of March 12, Lee had 51.70 percent of the vote (26,504) and Lundquist, an educator and astrophysicist, had 48.30 percent (24,762). Lee can avoid a runoff if he stays above 50 percent.
Last year, Lee won the seat with 52.1 percent to Lundquist’s 47.9 percent.