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Grand jury indicts Robert Rizzo and assistant on new Bell corruption allegations [Updated]

Rizzo A Los Angeles County grand jury unsealed indictments Wednesday against former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and his assistant, Angela Spaccia, related to a plan to boost their retirement benefits, marking new allegations in the sweeping public corruption scandal.

The indictments are the first to come out of the grand jury, which was called to investigate allegations of massive corruption in Bell’s city government. Rizzo and Spaccia and six other current and former Bell officials already were facing dozens of criminal charges stemming from allegations that they looted the city and lined their pocketbooks.

The newest charges -- unsealed Wednesday -- are related to Rizzo and Spaccia's roles in creating generous supplemental retirement packages for themselves. An early letter from the grand jury to the defendants suggested that the package benefited the two officials more than any other city employees and constituted a conflict of interest.

The Times first reported in September that the city had a supplemental plan that allowed employees to circumvent retirement limits set by California. An employee who worked in Bell for 25 years at age 55 could get 90% of their salary -- far more than most public employees who retire at age 60. Under this scenario, Rizzo's pension could have been close to $1 million annually.

The grand jury also indicted the pair on charges of creating false documents to hide the true salary of Bell Police Chief Randy Adams. Adams became the highest paid police official in the nation when he was hired by Bell, earning an annual salary of $457,000. He has not been charged in the corruption case.

[Updated at 10:10 a.m.: Both Rizzo and Spaccia pleaded not guilty to the new charges and denied all allegations. Judge Patricia M. Schnegg set their next court date for May 3, the same day as two other Bell cases. Their bail was set at $200,000 each, but both Spaccia and Rizzo were released on their own recognizance.

Spaccia's attorney, Russell Petti, said Spaccia was not involved in Adams' contract. "Ms. Spaccia was not even working in the city of Bell at the time -- she was over in Maywood," Petti said. "I have no idea how anyone thinks she could've been involved in that."

Rizzo's attorney, James Spertus, said he planned to seek a change of venue.

"I've got a lot of concerns about Mr. Rizzo's ability to get a fair trial in Los Angeles," he said.

He said the grand jury indictment was not a sure thing -- because it operates in secrecy and the defense is not allowed to present any evidence.]

Since The Times reported last summer that Rizzo's salary was $787,000 and that council members were earning $100,000, often for attending meetings that rarely or never held, eight current and former city officials have been arrested in a massive corruption sweep. Voters last month overwhelming recalled four of the five council members. Lorenzo Velez, the only Bell councilman not charged in the case, was not reelected.

Local, state and federal authorities continue to investigate the tiny southeast Los Angeles County city, which also illegally raised taxes and overcharged residents nearly $6 million. Most recently, the district attorney's office said last week that it had opened an inquiry into an unusual redevelopment deal in Bell. The city bought land for $1.35 million -- more than twice its assessed value. The seller was required to make a $425,000 "charitable donation" back to the city, but the money is unaccounted for, records show.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall has already ordered th eight Bell officials to stand trial on various charges -- and even suggested that the district attorney consider adding a few more charges.

"The allegations are, in my opinion, appalling," Hall said in February at the end of one of the preliminary hearings. "These people may not be involved in the running of that city in any shape or form." In another ruling, he described the actions of Bell officials as a "massive ongoing conspiracy to enrich themselves" and also referred to Rizzo's salary as "obscene."

RELATED:

Document: The full indictment

Is a city manager worth $800,000

Pensions for Rizzo, 40 other employees bigger than thought

Prosecutors to examine suspicious redevelopment deal in Bell

-- Jeff Gottlieb and Corina Knoll in Los Angeles County Superior Court

Photo: Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo, right, with his attorney James Spertus plead not guilty to grand jury indictments related to a plan to boost his retirement benefits, marking new allegations in the sweeping public corruption scandal at the Criminal Courts Building. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (50)

Sell their homes and empty their pensions to pay for court costs, etc! The only way to deter this kind of criminal behavior, is to strip every dime and more the criminals made in their criminal enterprise-hit em where it hurts -the money they worship!

Why hasn't Adams been charged yet?

Lets'hope this case will serve to all politicians/public employees not to cheat the system. Be honest (hopefully people still have integrety) and follow the straight path. I'm glad to see that the system will serve them justice. I'm not from Bell, however, live close to the city and it was shameful what these politicians did to this city. Jail time for them is the least they can get!

Aren't they on death row yet?

I hope they roast the little toad and his helper.

Rizzo - Have fun in prison Chubbs. I'm sure you'll have lots of new friends.

One has to assume that this same level of corruption is prevalent in most city govt offices. We need to go after all the public servant crooks in all cities.

Mr. Petti,Spacia, was working in the city of Maywood at the time of Adams contract she was working in Bell and in Maywood at the same time so if you are going to open a can of worms please do so, ask any resident of Maywood and they will say the same thing. Right Mr. Medina, you know the truth. Stop trying to put words in peoples mouth and get your information straight. Spacia and Rizzo will get what's coming to them and all the other council members. Why hasn't Adams, been convicted THAT BECAUSE HE IS A COP AND THEY COVER FOR EACH OTHER.

Adams isn't being charged because he's Cooley's buddy.

Wow this is really getting bad , i am sure if they look deeper there will be more problems

Adams is a criminal and should be prosecuted along with the other defendants. The fact that Adams committed crimes while in law enforcement only makes his actions more egregious.

I tired of everyone acting like Bell is an aberration; all other cities, muncipalities, agencies, joint-powers authorities, counties and state agencies are to a certain degree doing the same thing. They all look at the public with such contempt that corruption comes natural to their "us vs. them" mentality. Just look at the fixed pension obligations the taxpaying public is stuck with for the next 50 years (including congressmen and judges who need to serve only one term for a lifetime pension! and are delegated with the responsibility to administer "justice" LOL) When our government agencies hire Public Relations firms to handle "the public" (who are paid for by "the public") because their biggest concern is media exposure or bad publicity - we got a problem!

Adams should be sitting in that court room along with the rest of these crooks.

Spaccia was in Bell at the time and not in Maywood as she claims. I'm sure email records could clear that up, in fact, even when she was working in Maywood, she was not there the entire day and spent a lot of time in the City of Bell. I know this, because I worked in Maywood while she was there. She could rarely be found, especially when there were questions surrounding possible layoffs with regards to city employees. She often left work early or worked from Bell to avoid such questions.

Randy Adams had been working for Bell, prior to her starting her work with Maywood. I'm sure the City of Bell wouldn't have wanted her in Maywood full time when they were paying her such a hefty salary.

Furthermore, while she was working/assisting the day-to-day operations in the city of Maywood, it was a conspiracy to rid the city of Maywood of their employees for Rizzo's, Spaccia and certain Maywood city council members’ personal gains.

Spaccia lied about why she disbanded Maywood PD, and did it in order to have the Bell Police Dept. patrol the city of Maywood in order to profit from policing there. They were going to create a "new" police department and have board members that would get paid 100,000 each. That's why the Maywood council joined in the conspiracy, greed! Now Maywood is in even worse shape, as is Bell.

Why would she have sent emails back and forth to Randy Adams about getting rich off of Bell if she knew nothing about it? Her attorney is telling stories taller than Yao Ming!!!

Now the police association has a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Maywood for breach of contract. I wonder who their star witness will be? Surely not Spaccia or Mr. Lee, the dirty attorney Rizzo hired...

By volunteering their time, this is how they pay themselves. This goes for everyone else who volunteers their time to serve the public. This is ridiculous. So if the price to serve is not high enough for some individuals, then they refuse to serve? There should be a cap and no councilman should have the right to determine how much they should pay themselves a salary or retirement funds. Incompetence on everyone's part. So there was transparency, but with hidden double documents? What bank collected the money? Where is the checks and balances? Everyone who got the benefit of getting more income and benefits should pay it back.

I'm sure that this is going on in many cities across CA (and the entire U.S.). Yet the politicians in Sacramento want us to pay more in taxes. Until all of this corruption is exposed and the waste stops, I'm not willing to pay more taxes.

Talk about wasting the court's time. Why not put all the charges into one setting and have him and the Bell Eight show up once?

I predict that a safe will fall on his head before Adams' is charged or found guilty.

The people need to demand the prosecution of this corrupt officer. Charge him! Demand it! The institutions of our democracy are at stake - The people of Bell have an obligation to charge this criminal!

Charge this man! Demand it! The people of Bell MUST not heed to corruption. No one is above the law. No one!

Shame Shame on them ! I hope they all get the maxinm in prision for their selfish greed how could they have done something like this ! Taking from hard working people from Bell. While they wine, dine have enromous homes and live a fancy life style just give them thier State issued clothes NOW !

Adams deserve to be in that indicment also! who cares who he who he knows he as guilty as all of them do justice right!! Charge All Of Them

Waiting to hear about South Gate! When Ron George schmoozed himself into the City Manager's position AND held Police Chief position at the same time, retiring with TWO PENSIONS combined! South Gate has been a corrupt place for over a decade but nobody's hollering yet! Just wait.....

@hypocriteadams....Adams and D.A. Cooley are golf buddies. I do agree though, he's as guilty as these two. Which makes Cooley somewhat "suspect", don't ya think? Let's start with the big fish's and the big pond right after at L.A. City Hall. Pretty sure, there's a bunch of crooks like Rizzo and Spacia walking around right now.

Keep up the good work LA Times, There are more crooks like the Bell 7 out there.

These are only the folks who got caught. How many other city administrators in California do the same thing?

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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