Former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Returns to Court in ‘Casino Loyale’ Corruption Trial

This week, the federal court began proceedings in the trial of Raymond Chan, former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, who faces charges including racketeering, bribery, and fraud.

This marks the second attempt by federal prosecutors to bring Raymond Chan to trial for his alleged involvement in a wide-ranging corruption scheme led by former City Councilman Jose Huizar. Chan refutes claims that he acted as a key link between Chinese property developers and Huizar. Huizar, who was convicted last year and sentenced to 13 years in prison for accepting $1.5 million in kickbacks, primarily in the form of casino chips, in exchange for expediting major downtown real estate projects. The initial trial for Chan was disrupted in April last year due to his lawyer’s illness, leaving Chan as the final defendant to face charges in the case, which prosecutors have dubbed “Casino Loyale.”

The Facilitator involved?

During the opening arguments on Tuesday, prosecutors depicted Chan as a mediator who allegedly received bribes for both himself and others. They allege that while working for the L.A. City Council, Chan covertly set up a consulting firm that received payments from a developer after his tenure with the city ended. Additionally, prosecutors claim Chan assisted Huizar in obtaining bribes from the Chinese property developer Shenzhen New World Group and its billionaire owner, Wei Huang.

The Fall of Huizar

In 2010, Shenzhen New World Group acquired the L.A. Grand Hotel with plans to transform it into a 77-floor mixed-use skyscraper, aiming to make it the tallest building on the West Coast.

According to court documents, Wei Huang provided Huizar and his aide, George Esparza, with various lavish gifts, including cash, casino chips, private jet flights, stays at luxury Las Vegas hotels, expensive meals, spa services, and even prostitution services.

Huizar’s activities caught the attention of casino staff at the Palazzo Las Vegas, who noticed him cashing out large sums of money in casino chips provided by Wei.

Under anti-money laundering regulations, casino staff are trained to pay particular attention to politicians, or “politically exposed persons.” That’s because they carry a greater risk of involvement in bribery or corruption, and therefore money laundering.

After Huizar declined to sign a document confirming he had an “independent source of wealth” to justify his gambling with personal funds, the casino alerted the FBI.

No Exchange of Favors

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Chan’s new lawyer, John Hanusz, stressed that his client had not participated in the Las Vegas casino trips mentioned in the case. He argued that Chan’s actions were driven by a sincere intention to enhance downtown L.A., highlighting his efforts to streamline bureaucratic processes for ambitious construction projects. Hanusz emphasized that there was no exchange of favors involving Ray Chan, contrasting this with the situation involving Jose Huizar, where such exchanges did occur.