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8 Bell City Officials Arrested in Pay Scandal

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on September 22, 2010 7:17 AM

The small city of Bell, California, has been in the news lately over the story of the excessive salaries the city's officers were paid. Now, it seems that the huge salaries were not quite enough for the Bell city officials, as eight current and former city workers have been arrested on corruption charges which include making illegal loans to themselves. Among those arrested were former city manager Robert Rizzo, ex-Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia, councilmembers George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo and Luis Artiga, and former councilmembers George Cole and Victor Bello.

According to MSNBC, the Bell suspects were booked into county detention facilities and separated from other inmates for their protection. Maybe police believe even those in the local jails would be angered over the more than $5 million prosecutors are saying the corruption scandal has cost Bell in excessive salaries and loans.

"This, needless to say, is corruption on steroids," District Attorney Steve Cooley told the press at a news conference. The former city manager, Robert Rizzo, alone has been charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. Details of the allegations against Rizzo include that he gained $4.3 million from paying himself through different employment contracts not approved by the City Council.

MSNBC reports prosecutors allege the suspects misappropriated more than $5.5 million by making illegal personal loans and that council members paid themselves a combined $1.25 million for what Cooley called "phantom meetings" of several city boards and agencies. The D.A. has also said the investigation is not over and more charges could be filed.

Since there is a group facing similar charges, it is possible a charge of conspiracy could be added to the list. The charge of conspiracy usually attaches when two or more people make an agreement to carry out a crime. In this case, if it can be shown they acted in concert, the various members of the council and city managers could certainly be looking at a charge of conspiracy to defraud.

The criminal charges are not even the end of the story for these Bell city officials. MSNBC also reports Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued those involved on behalf of the state for defrauding taxpayers with the excessive salaries the city authorities granted themselves.

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