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LA developer charged with making illegal campaign contributions

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More than $600,000 donated while the city was considering a big new apartment complex

rendering of Sea Breeze
A rendering of the Sea Breeze apartment project in Harbor Gateway.
Los Angeles Department of City Planning

The developer of a large apartment complex in LA’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood is facing multiple felony charges over campaign contributions made to eight local officials.

Developer Samuel Leung and his secretary, Sofia David, have each been charged with conspiracy to commit campaign money laundering, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Friday. Leung has also been charged for offering to bribe a legislative body member.

In 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that donors linked to Leung had contributed more than $600,000 to local officials between 2008 and 2015—the period during which the city was reviewing the developer’s Sea Breeze project near the intersection of Normandie Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard.

Leung and David are accused of reimbursing these donors for their contributions, and in some cases, making donations on behalf of others without their knowledge.

The development, which includes 352 apartments in a primarily industrial zone, underwent an extensive environmental review process and was rejected by the city Planning Commission, which found that it was “not appropriate for the site.” The City Council, however, reversed this decision and approved the project in February, 2015.

Among the officeholders who received campaign contributions from individuals connected to Leung: Mayor Eric Garcetti, County Supervisor Janice Hahn, and City Councilmembers Joe Buscaino, Mitchell Englander, and Jose Huizar.

Officials contacted by the Times in 2016 said they had no knowledge of the donations.

If convicted, Leung could be sentenced to up to four years and eight months in state prison; David could get a maximum sentence of three years.