Former Los Angeles airport commissioner Leland Wong was convicted Thursday, July 24th, of bribery, conflict of interest, embezzlement and other charges after a joint state-federal probe into allegations of “pay-to-play” by some officials in the administration of former Mayor James Hahn.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated about a day before convicting Wong, 51, of 14 felony charges related to his service as an appointed city commissioner and as a director of government relations for Kaiser-Permanente, a district attorney spokesperson said. Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson, who presided over the nearly month-long trial, scheduled sentencing for September 25th.
Wong was indicted in August 2006. He remains free on his own recognizance pending sentencing.
Deputy district attorney Max Huntsman has said he will ask that Wong be sentenced to state prison for an as yet unannounced term, but noted that the ultimate decision on sentencing will be made by the trial judge. The prosecution’s recommendation will be filed with the court prior to the scheduled sentencing date.
“The jury’s decision that Mr. Wong committed bribery as well as other felony conduct while supposedly serving the citizens of the City of Los Angeles as a high-ranking commissioner of the airport and Water and Power departments is a loud message to public officials that such behavior is criminal and will not be tolerated,” said District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Wong was convicted of bribery, conflict of interest and perjury between 2002 and 2004, when he was on the airport and Water and Power commissions during the Hahn administration. The grand theft by embezzlement counts for which he was convicted stem from his employment at Kaiser-Permanente.
During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that while Wong was a city commissioner, he asked for and received a bribe of $100,000 from Evergreen Shipping, according to the district attorney’s office. The money, in payments of $5,000 a month to Wong, stopped when he was no longer a city commissioner. Huntsman said the money was deposited in Wong’s offshore account in Hong Kong.
Wong also was convicted of filing false state tax returns in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
The jury found the defendant not guilty of seven counts — six of grand theft by embezzlement and one of conflict of interest.
Hahn testified during the trial and said that Wong never said he was being paid by Evergreen while the company was negotiating airport and harbor deals with the city. The former mayor also denied that a deputy mayor in his administration was engaged in “pay-to-play” tactics.