Former L.A. lawmaker allegedly took cash and 'female escort services' from developer

One-time City Councilman Mitchell Englander was indicted in a federal pay-to-play scheme.
Image: Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander in 2016.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander in 2016.Lilly Lawrence / Getty Images file

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By Andrew Blankstein, Eric Leonard and David K. Li

LOS ANGELES — A former city councilman surrendered to federal agents on Monday and was charged with lying about taking improper gifts, such as cash and "female escort services," in a pay-to-play scheme, authorities said.

Mitchell Englander, 49, had represented L.A. City Council District 12 — covering San Fernando Valley neighborhoods such as Granada Hills, Chatsworth and Northridge — from July 2011 until his abrupt resignation at the end of 2018.

He's been indicted on one count of participating in a scheme to falsify material facts, three counts of making false statements and three counts of witness tampering — which could land him behind bars for up to 50 years, officials said.

Englander allegedly used his position on the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, which oversees many of the city's most significant commercial and residential development projects, to line his pockets.

The former lawmaker schemed "to cover up his acceptance of cash payments, expensive meals and escort services from" an unidentified businessman, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Prosecutors say the businessman "operated companies in Los Angeles relating to major development projects and sought to increase his business opportunities in the city."

Englander, from August 2017 to December 2018, "willfully falsified and concealed material facts pertaining" to June 2017 trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, an indictment alleges.

On the Las Vegas trip, Englander was handed an envelope with $10,000 cash, was hooked up with a female escort, given $1,000 in casino gambling chips, received $34,000 in bottle service at a nightclub and enjoyed a $2,481 dinner at a restaurant, according to the indictment.

And prosecutors allege that on the Palm Springs trip, Englander got envelope with $5,000 in cash.

Englander made his initial appearance before a judge late Monday afternoon and was released after posting $50,000 bond.

Defense attorney Janet Levine, in a written statement, called Englander's arrest a "setback" and didn't directly address the charges against her client.

"Mitch is proud of the work he has done to serve his community as both a volunteer reserve police officer and a public official," according to Levine.

"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."

When Englander left office, he was the council's only Republican.

Andrew Blankstein and Eric Leonard reported from Los Angeles, and David K. Li from New York