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Despite questions, Bell councilman insists he lives in the city

A Bell city councilman says he and his family live in a small apartment behind the church where he is pastor -– even though he also owns a large home in Chino.

Luis A. Artiga has owned the Chino home for at least eight years, long before he became a councilman in 2009.‪ He insisted in an interview that he lives in Bell but regularly goes to his Chino home to maintain it.

On his voter registration affidavit, he says that he lives at Bell Community Church, where he is pastor. In addition to Artiga, his wife and four other relatives are also registered to vote at the Gage Avenue church, county records show.

But according to records at the San Bernardino Assessor’s Office, Luis and Miriam Artiga are receiving a homeowners’ exemption on the property in Chino.

Rhonda Pfeiffer of the assessor’s office said that to be eligible for the homeowners’ exemption, you must be living in the home as a primary residence at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1 of the year.

"You cannot live at two places at the same time," she said.

The exemption reduces the assessed value by $7,000 and reduces the property tax bill, she said.

Over the last few weeks, The Times has seen Artiga at his apartment at the Bell church several times. But on Monday morning, The Times found him watering his lawn at his four-bedroom, ranch-style Chino home some 35 miles east of Bell.

Around noon, his sons spotted a Times reporter and photographer outside the house as they left the property. The reporter and photographer knocked on the door three times and got no reply.‪ A short time later, the sons returned and backed their cars up to the garage door with an SUV shielding the view of a BMW.‪

The 59-year-old Artiga, wearing a baseball cap, then came out of the garage and ducked into the BMW, which took off south at a high rate of speed as a Toyota Land Cruiser drove slowly behind. In an interview later that day, Artiga said he fled the Chino house because he didn’t want the media in the area. He also said he fears for his life because he and other council members have received death threats since the national attention over the high salaries in Bell.

He said he only goes there to check on the house, pick up the mail and water the plants.‪ "I don’t live in Chino," Artiga reiterated. "If I go there it's during the day to turn on the sprinkler. I don’t sleep there." He said his 5-year-old daughter goes to a Bell preschool.‪

Occasionally, Artiga said, he stays at the house for special occasions such as birthday parties. "And that has happened only twice in the past six to seven months," he said.

Artiga said his most recent stay at the Chino house was July 27. That day, two fellow council members announced that they would continue their terms without pay during a council session at which residents had demanded that he and three other council members resign.‪

"The Sheriff’s Department told us that night not to sleep at the [apartment]," Artiga said. "They told us to stay at the Chino house, so that time, yes, I was there," he said.‪

In recent years, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley has successfully prosecuted several politicians for registering to vote and getting elected in areas they were not officially residing in -- including Huntington Park, South Gate, West Covina and Vernon.‪

Prosecutors recently indicted Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife on perjury and voter fraud for allegedly falsely claiming an address. Alarcon was also charged with filing a false declaration of candidacy. "They have to register to vote at their domicile and can only be elected in the city or district where they live," said David Demerjian, head of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity section.

"We basically get them for lying. They perjure themselves when they register to vote at an address that isn’t their true residence."

Demerjian said there is currently no investigation into Artiga’s residency status.

-- Richard Winton in Chino Hills and Ruben Vives in Bell

Photo: Bell Councilman Luis Artiga, at rear wearing a blue hat, leaves his Chino home Monday.

Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times 

Comments () | Archives (65)

Why am I not surprised? Tell me another tall tale Mr. Artiaga...I think that I've heard this one before.

As voters we must hold all elected officials from the local to state to national accountable.

We give these folks power and should exercise our right to recall them if it is warranted.


Gee, I wonder why we shouldn't believe him.

This is the same guy who described his $100k for a part-time job as a "gift from God." No Pastor Artiga, that exorbitant salary was not a gift from God, it was a gift from unknowing taxpayers. Your congregation should know what type of avarice-fueled lifestyle you lead. You probably tell your congregation to be pious, to be modest, and yet you retreat to a ranch-style home in Chino in a BMW?!

Fire this person remove his pension.

I like how they tried to block the view of the BMW. Too funny.

Artiga, just resign, would ya'? You at least still have your church scam going too

He's going to have to decide which benefit he wants most...his City of Bell council pay or the San Bernardino County Homeowners' tax exemption. Apparently, he can't continue to collect both. He's been caught!

This is why we need a strong, professional press. They can follow stories that part-time bloggers cannot. Thank you, LA Times, for blowing the lid on this mess and for following up on it.

How much longer can these clowns remain out of jail this needs to end they need to have very large asset seizure!!
Think of all the jobs that that would save we could possibly fill Californians budget gap on the backs of crooks and politicians rather than broken tax payers!!!

LOL. Fraud.

Another con from Bell... what a surprise!

he implicated himself.
"He said he only goes there to check on the house, pick up the mail and water the plants."

him getting his mail there means thats where he lives. end of story. this is fraud and he should quit.

Here is a link to the church

God has special rules for the people who hold themselves out as working for Him. I wouldn't want to be this guy.

just another dirt bag from Bell they should all go to jail but they won't

This is an example of the outstanding investigative journalism by the Los Angeles Times and its investigative journalists. The District Attorney must immediately investigate this likely criminal and prosecute and hopefully place him in jail where he belongs.
We have had a similar situation where I live in Athens GA for many years. A local "representative" who owns a house in Athens, also has one in Atlanta and is rarely in Athens at all. But if you ask him he makes the same claims as the subject of the article. In Georgia the local newspaper the Athens Banner Herald never does any true investigative journalism like the LA Times did in this case to prove with facts and observations where one actually resides on a daily basis. Once a former opponent in a race challenged him in court but the hearing was a total sham with the judge blindly ruling in favor of the "representative". Even in the recent election, a different opponent raised the issue, but this individual was elected anyway. The DA here is so corrupt he would never seek to investigate or indict this person. Georgia is a corrupt cesspool much like California.

What is the penalty for falsely claiming a homeowners' tax exemption?

This person is a joke. I live on the same block and he spends the night at least four times a week.

The Chino address will be convenient for him: hopefully he's going be there for the next 5-10 years.

R.I.C.O. ..............................Suave!

What a bunch of crooks! By the way, how about getting and posting the names of the 2 other Bell city employees that are making $400K and over? They deserve to be villified.

C'mon Pastor Luis. With your last drop of honor, fall on your (metaphorical) sword. Resign and tend to your flock.

"Church Scam" is probably correct; every week people give you cash and you can report whatever amount you want, if any.

Well caught with his pants down......Corrupt Politician and I hope they throw the book at him and he spends time in jail, and looses his house in Chino

Wonder what kind of breaks you get for living in an apartment on church property, I mean besides the weekly cash bonuses.

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