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Judge in Bell case urges D.A. to consider additional charges against Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia

March 10, 2011 |  1:32 pm

Former Bell leaders Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia in court on Thursday.

A Los Angeles judge urged prosecutors to consider filing additional criminal charges against former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and his onetime assistant Angela Spaccia after ordering them Thursday to stand trial on accusations they looted the city treasury by drawing extravagant salaries and loaning out city money.

Judge Henry J. Hall said the two former administrators could be charged with aggravated white-collar crimes. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office did not say whether the charges would be added.

Hall said the defendants, including recently recalled Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former Councilman Luis Artiga, engaged in a "massive ongoing conspiracy to enrich themselves."

All four were ordered to return March 24 to face charges of misappropriating more than $5 million in city funds.

Hernandez, Artiga and four other former council members were previously ordered to stand trial on public corruption charges for allegedly drawing near-$100,000 salaries and serving on boards and commissions that rarely met.

Hall, who upheld all 54 counts against Rizzo, dismissed sentencing enhancements the prosecution had added to the criminal charges concerning $1.9 million in city money that Rizzo paid out in loans to fellow employees, council members and a local car dealer.

Hall noted that the loans had been repaid and could not be categorized as “excessive taking.” He also acknowledged that the loans “did build good relationships with employees and contributed to their retention and that is a valuable legitimate purpose.”

Charges were also upheld against Artiga and Hernandez, who both accepted city loans, and Hall said it was a conflict of interest for the two to accept city loans as council members.

“Public officials don’t get to take one hat off and put another hat on in order to escape the responsibilities of public officials,” he said.

Voters went to the polls Tuesday in Bell and elected a new City Council, which could be seated later this month.


Former Bell leaders ordered to stand trial

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Former Bell leaders Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia in court on Thursday. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times