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Bell officials arrested as prosecutors are set to file criminal charges [Updated]

At least eight city of Bell officials were arrested Tuesday morning, a source said, as L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley prepared to announce criminal charges in the municipal salary scandal.

[Updated at 10 a.m.: Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, whose high salary sparked the outrage that led to the investigations of the city, was among those arrested in the sweep. No details have been released, but a source not authorized to speak publicly about the case said that Rizzo; former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia; Mayor Oscar Hernandez; Councilmembers Luis Artiga, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal; and former Councilmembers George Cole and Victor Bello were among those arrested.

[Updated at 11:22 p.m.: Cooley filed charges against eight Bell officials Tuesday, alleging that they misappropriated $5.5 million in public funds. Rizzo has been charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest.

Among those arrested were former city administrator Robert Rizzo, former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, councilmembers George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo, Luis Artiga and former councilmembers George Cole and Victor Bello.

"This is corruption on steroids," Cooley said.]

The charges are expected to be detailed at a morning press conference, according to a source with knowledge of the case who was not authorized to comment publicly. A witness told The Times he saw Councilman Luis Artiga taken away in handcuffs Tuesday morning.

A neighbor of Hernandez said authorities used a battering ram on his front door after he failed to answer the door.

"They broke the door down," said the neighbor, who only gave his name as Jose. "They knocked down the door and they brought him out in cuffs."]

For two months, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and state and federal authorities have investigated Bell, where high salaries earned by former City Manager Robert Rizzo and other top officials have sparked widespread outrage. The Times reported last month that Rizzo was set to earn more than $1.5 million in 2010. Additionally, he gave loans totaling $1.6 million to more than 50 city officials, including himself.

Cooley has said his office was examining whether the various financial transactions in Bell amounted to thefts of public funds. The office is also looking into allegations of voter fraud and whether the high salaries earned by Rizzo and others were legal.

Last week, California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against current and former Bell city leaders demanding that their pay contracts be nullified and that they pay back some of their salaries and pension benefits. Artiga was not one of those named in the lawsuit, and he said he was working with investigators.

Rizzo and other top city officials stepped down in July after the salary scandal broke. City Council members — who were earning nearly $100,000 a year — significantly slashed their pay.

The full audit by state Controller John Chiang's office has previously found that Bell illegally overtaxed residents and businesses by $5.6 million. In addition to the retirement funds, Rizzo received two city loans of $80,000, officials said.

After The Times disclosed the loans, city officials said they were suspending the loan program and were trying to determine how many of the loans were repaid.

-- Jack Leonard, Ruben Vives and Richard Winton

Photo: Photo of police outside Bell councilmember Geroge Mirabal's home Tuesday morning. The photo was supplied by a Bell resident who wished to remain anonymous. Below: Rizzo under arrest. Daily Pilot.

Comments () | Archives (353)

Wow... the rediculous salary was not enough uh? So let's steal millions more. I hope they lock them up and throw the key down a pit somewhere.

Good job LA Times. Next up, City of Vernon, Maywood, South Gate, Huntington Park. They should throw ALL these thieves under the prison and NO pension whatsoever. That pension money should go to the community.

It doesn't matter what their political affiliation is (@ others who want to know) They're crooks if their "R" and they're crooks if they're "D". A crook by any affiliation is still a crook.

Perhaps this could be done at the federal level. What a wonderful thing it would be to see Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid led away in handcuffs, to spend the rest of their worthless lives in 8 by 10 foot cockroach-infested cells, living on stale bread and dirty water.

I know they swindled money..Yes, there is no denying it, but the amount of time and QUICK turn around in getting to this point seems very much motivated politically by both Brown and Cooley, who, as all of you know are running on a campaign year...

All Democrats. Every last one of them.

Scumbags! Go directly to jail, throw away the key.
How arrogant!

I can't believe it took this long! What was the hold up.
They all belong behind bars!

Whoa ... sweeeeet ... now let's see if the charges stick ... bring out the popcorn ... this is better than a reality show =)

The sad part about this is that people with knowledge of all this corruption and theft went to the district attorney and the FBI years ago with complaints. Their response was "bring us all the evidence and we'll look into it". In other words, do our investigation for us and maybe we'll look into it. Not until people went to the L.A. Times with info and the Times published it, did the DA and FBI get involved....obviously to cover their asses and take credit for busting the (alleged) criminal activities.

Hey folks, I don't know how many of you are voters here in California, but if you were you'd know that municipal elections in the Golden State are all NON-PARTISAN. Their party affiliations aren't mentioned because they never had a DEM or REP next to their names on the ballot.

@MM, Who cares what their political affiliation is?. Being a thief has no party.

Fat, useless bureaucrats stealing massive sums from the taxpayer? Are you sure that's against the law? Isn't that how government is supposed to behave?

What I admire most about the people of Bell, is that they worked together to rid these people from their local govt. They were working as neighbors and Americans, not as separate groups. The rest of the country could learn alot from them. Especially the fringe groups.

On a much lesser scale, but far greater in the aggregate, politicians now pay civil service employees greater pay and by far greater benefits for equivalent jobs and responsibilities in the private sector.

They will end up in white line prisons! Weekend visits from the wife and will be able to do just about anything except leave. They need to do time where the rest of us would go if we did this.

"'This is corruption on steroids," Cooley said.'"

That's an understatement. I'm still shocked by such a brazen abuse of their positions and the taxpayers. They should do some lengthy jail time and pay back every cent, plus interest, then ridden out of town on a rail. I'm suprised it went on unnoticed for as long as it did.

In United States of AMERICA so many cooks and so many illegal immigration punishment and they are very dangers to AMERICAN citizens it does matter how long they are in AMERICA they are illegal immigration ,what wrong with Government in United States ,Government act but not doing if act do not do then shut your mounth!!!!

Small fry.The feds and most states do a it worse...BUT they think sacrifice these 'pawns' and we will be satisfied and not look a Federal and state corruption

All he wanted was to put food on his table. What's wrong with that?


To Bill and all the other morons making the claim that these crooks were Democrats. I don't know how many times you have to be told that city-wide offices in California are NON-PARTISAN - by law. These Bell officials were not elected or sponsored by any political party. I don't even know if they are registered voters - and neither do any of you! So stop making stuff up!

Throw the book at them for their white collar crimes. However, what need is there to go to their homes and risk injuring innocent people by grandstanding and breaking doors down? Is there any doubt they would have surrendered at police headquarters or at the county jail if so instructed? I grow weary of these perp walk tactics that are designed to humiliate suspects prior to their convictions.

how come there is no mention that all these crooks were democrats hmmmmm i wonder.......

It's a good thing for that Robert Rizzo guy to be in jail and on food ration, I mean the guy need some serious weight loss. If only the tax payers can recoup their 1 mill for every pound he loss ...............

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