Prosecutors file additional charges against ex-Bell officials
Los Angeles County prosecutors filed more charges Thursday against former Bell city administrator Robert Rizzo and his ex-assistant, Angela Spaccia, who are already facing numerous charges of public corruption and misappropriation of funds.
The complaint adds one count of misappropriation of funds against the two for what prosecutors say was Spaccia's excessive compensation and benefits. Spaccia also faces three additional counts of conflict of interest for allegedly writing her own employment contracts, which officials say helped her earn more than $375,000 annually -– more than most city managers in the state.
Prosecutors dropped one count of misappropriation of funds against Rizzo.
Rizzo still faces more than 50 felony charges including conflict of interest and falsification of public records. He and seven other current and former Bell officials were arrested last September during a sweeping corruption probe that has left the city in financial disarray.
Prosecutors say Rizzo lacked the authority to dole out nearly $2 million in loans from the city treasury to dozens of employees, and that he and Spaccia wrote their own employee contracts without City Council approval. Rizzo topped off an $80,000 loan to himself several times while Spaccia accepted three loans totaling more than $300,000, which she put toward purchasing property, prosecutors say.
Rizzo, Spaccia, former Councilman Luis Artiga and recently ousted Mayor Oscar Hernandez all pleaded not guilty Thursday at an arraignment. Officials say Artiga received two $20,000 loans, one of which he used to adopt a daughter from Tijuana. Hernandez said he used his $20,000 loan to buy equipment for his market.
Along with recently recalled council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal and former councilmen Victor Bello and George Cole, Artiga and Hernandez are also charged in a separate case in which prosecutors charge they were paid for serving on several boards and commissions that never or rarely met.
Rizzo is the sole defendant in a third case in which he is accused of conflict of interest in connections with a racehorse venture he owned with Dennis Tarango, who served as Bell's privately contracted planning director.
-- Corina Knoll
Photo: Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia during a preliminary hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court on March 4. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times