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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)

Oh, and by the way, they're Democrats.

Thanks to those who brought out the outrageous salaries in both LA & OC counties. These people need to be hung in their respective town squares.

The really sad part of this is that this is not even the tip of the iceberg... we waste so much money in every aspect of government and it HAS TO STOP if we want to continue to have the USA around much longer. ( If anyone thinks that this is wrong, just look up the Roman Empire or USSR on line)

Hope it was all worth it.

The Times forgot to tell us what political party sponsored these criminals\

I wonder why? NOT!

All DemocRATS!

Why do we let ANY in our corrupt criminal class of "public servants" set their own salary and benefits?

Its way past time for a REVOLUTION - Get ANGRY and GET EVEN

Why are people worried about party affiliations on this? They're dirtbags, whatever their political party. And, regardless, there's dirtbags in every political party...

The L.A. times should investigate MONTEBELLO. I think they will find the same level of corruption. There are a lot of unwritten policies they operate by that is why I moved out. I contacted the D.A., but nothing was done.

You can tell by just looking at that Rizzo that all he wants to do is consume and indulge himself.

OK, where were the checks and balances? Even the local town bank, these slobs show up and deposit their $$$$$$ paycheck. Didn't anyone notice anything unusual? Give me a break. Did the citizens approve tax increases without question? What does it take to spark some curiosity in these folks, a bomb going off in their head??

great job people of bell, so watch out other city leaders your next I'm sure, the people have spoken.

Is there any information about these crooks at the REPUBLICAN OFFENDERS website?

how come the police chief was not arrested? he was making more then the LA Police chief

This is a good start.

I for one am sick of reading about politicians and special interests looting our tax payer treasuries across the US.

Great Work LA Times! Despite bruisnf cutbacks you still stayed on top of the story. Please investigate the City of Los Angeles now. The City is out of control. Let this be a reminder that nobody is above the law.

I beat up on newspapers alot so I have to give a huge "ATTABOY" to the LA Times for this story.

Kudos! And keep up this kind of good work.

Now that the City of Bell case has been cracked I think that the LAT needs to investigate why there were only 7.4 jobs created out of the multi-million dollars stimulus granted to Los Angeles. There needs to be an account of every dollar of the stimulus spent. The City of Bell case just proves that you can't really trust anyone in govt. regardless of what level they are at.

No doubt this is the tip of the iceberg. I'll bet there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of local CA politicians making outrageous salaries. And can you even imagine how many STATE workers are pulling in way over $100,000, which, if it isn't a crime, ought to be? Tax me all you want to build a bigger jail for these cockroaches!

Robert Rizzo, didn't he star in Austin Powers movies II and III? Yeah, now I remember he played Fat Bastard.

Outstanding investigative journalism! Without the unwavering determination of the writer(s), this would have gone on for another 10 years with the retired Bell officials siphoning off their pension dollars from the state coffers. A Pulitzer Prize is in oder.

Great Story.
Think of all those people of Bell in the past who worked hard and had hope in elected officials who held offices of public trust.
Now this is how a newspaper use innovation in the media and have an impact on this State and the whole United States. I will continue to read the LA Times Online and pick up copies on Sunday.
Great job.

just an example of what goes on & Roosevelt Dorn can't deny that

I think these folks should hang!. If convicted of course.

PLEASE check out the city of Riverside officials !! Loveridge and gang I bet are doing the same things.

Hey where is the police chief Randy Adams, he should have been arrested also, this is a dirty cop and he needs to go to jail with his buddies. I wonder if he snitched everybody off so he could get away clean, typical cop stuff, they always get away.

hmm..now how about coming after the supertintendent of Centinela Valley School District Jose Fernandez who declared bankruptcy and then took a 2% loan from the school district to pay his mortgage..all this while making over $200,000 a year to run one of the smallest and lowest performing districts in CA (only 4 schools!). Isn't stealing money from public ed for personal use just as bad??

Send them all to mexico since that is what they practice mexican style of government.

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