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

Bell
Bell-rizzo
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)

These politicians look so much like tea partiers. They preach one thing and do another, taking the meaning of corruption to levels never seen before. Can the police go after Halliburton, Blackwater, now Xe and the other war profiteers? What these Bell officials did sounds like small change in comparison to what republicans, tea partiers do in the name of less government.

Thatguy, see my earlier post for the answer to your question (they're all Democrats).

@ MM
Local cities and municipals do not declare a party affiliation. City politics is non-partisan and would be illegal for any actions done on city time for any political party.

Greed is greed, and criminal is criminal no matter which side of the aisle they come from.

Clean sweep...nice job! Hope the charges stick.

One should commend the DA..it take lot of principle and guts.It appears that these Public officials were running a little Club lot like the new TV series "Boardwalk Empire"in the 1920's New Jersey..except this is Circa 2010 !!

It has begun!!! Now let's go after ALL local, state and federal employees and politicians that aren't doing their jobs legal or otherwise. We can't let this kind of thing to happen ever again.

Anyone check out the salaries being paid to the City of Irwindale's "Interim" City Manager, Sol Benudiz (He is also Irwindale's Ex-Chief of Police that was overpaid as Chief as well by the way).
Also a fact is one year a Detective Sergeant (Mario Camacho) made over $200,000 in bogus overtime "detective duties".
Talk about salary scandals!

The photographer ought to win a Pulitzer for that image for what he captured is the personification of our worthless, bloated, and criminal local, state, and fedal governments.

Hope Rizzo rots in prison - though with that girth it'll have to be a very long sentence.

Who cares what political party they are from. This is not a political issue, just a plain old criminal. Crooks come in all shapes and sizes. It's time for the justice system to prosecute them for the criminal acts they have allegedly done.

I think the media has done a good job at staying away from identifying what party they belong to. It detracts from the point. They didn't care who they stole from. They had no political agenda except to enrich their own pockets at the expense of the residents of Bell and the state of California.

I'm hoping for jail time...it's an added expense to taxpayers...but less than what we would've paid for Rizzo's pension.

Now the bad news, your still going to have to pay Robert Rizzo's pension

These government rats, from the city level all the way up to the federal level need to be led away in handcuffs and lined up before a firing squad.

@ David: "This will some day make a good movie."

Yeah, THE FLIM FLAM MAN REDUX

@ MN: "What is the party affiliation of the Bell employees?"

A foolproof rule of thumb: If article is negative and the writer doesn't say, the subject is a Democrat.

Certainly seems like Socialism/Obamaism in Action. Over taxed the people to redistribute it to friends and allies.....

Please tell me that if they are convicted they lose their pensions.

I wonder how many other cities are being run by similar crooks. This is a good start but there are literally thousands of government types all across America and especially in DC that need to be led out of their homes in cuffs.

THE CITY OF COMPTON SHOULD BE NEXT. STEVE COOLEY IS NOT FOCUSING ON COMPTON BECAUSE ONE OF HIS EMPLOYEE'S IS THE MAYOR.

Government workers will take down these guys and try to ignore that it is happening all over the place at every level. The government is left to investigate itself, not a good thing, unless the newspapers do the work like in this case.

Hey Emile Zola, you're trying to equate the liberal politicians in Bell with Tea Partiers? You sound like another Kalifornia victimcrat dingbat. Pathetic loser.

Did you notice that the new media failed to point out that all offical arrested in Bell, California are all Democrats.

Good story, though it is not disclosed which political party the arrested officials belong to. Any idea?

drop in the bucket.

Would have been less expensive to just answer the door, Mayor Hernandez.

Now on top of all your other problems, you gotta get new front door.

Great job Times. Unfortunately, there are plenty more stories like this one in Southern California politics. I only wish our public officials would put the public's interest first and stop helping themselves at the public trough.

Now that's great journalism, LA Times!

Next stop: City of Vernon...Maywood...Downey...

Loven' it. Lock up the Bell dogs. This should stand as a warning that all pensions are at risk for reform, even you police officers and fire fighters. Just ask yourself the following. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Hey what about the scoundrel police chief. He's a crook too. filed a workers comp claim in his previous department Simi Valley stating he hurt his shoulder picking up a box.

Crook,

 
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