A man posing as a studio executive, but apparently actually working as an undercover FBI agent targeting State Sen. Ron Calderon, contacted Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar's office last year with questions about city permits.
Records and interviews indicate the agent represented himself as Rocky Patel, president of Los Angeles-based United Pacific Studios. Sometime last year, the councilman's spokesman said, Patel apparently wanted information on securing a conditional use permit for a production studio in Huizar’s district.
One Huizar staff member “met Mr. Patel at his business and explained the options available to him,” said Huizar spokesman Rick Coca in an e-mail. “Subsequently, the staff member did not hear from him again on this matter.” On Friday, when reporters asked Huizar whether he met Patel, he referred questions to Coca. Coca's email did not address that question.
The sting operation was described in vast detail in a 125-page sealed affidavit obtained by Al Jazeera America last week. The undercover agent, who is not identified by name, repeatedly made payments to Calderon as the lawmaker worked to secure new tax credits in Sacramento that could benefit the company, the affidavit states.
Calderon has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged. Coca said Calderon referred Patel to Huizar's office.
In the affidavit, federal investigators said they began targeting “two different public officials” in Los Angeles in October 2011. The officials aren't named. Six months later, the agents added Calderon to their investigation, the document states.
From November 2011 to April 2013, the undercover agent appeared to have cultivated an elaborate Twitter feed for his Rocky Patel persona, which promoted both United Pacific Studios and the activities of Calderon and other Los Angeles-area lawmakers.
At least 18 of the Twitter messages were focused on Huizar. One Patel tweet offered the councilman a birthday greeting. Another congratulated Huizar on the opening of a Famima convenience store.
“Awesome coffee! What a coup! Nice work Cnclmbr Huizar!” the message read.