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Bell Officials To Learn If They Will Stand Trial

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Former and current Bell city employees, Robert Rizzo (L), former city manager, Angela Spaccia (2L), former assistant city manager, Victor Bello (3L), former council member, and Oscar Hernandez (R), mayor, attend a bail reduction hearing on September 22, 2010. (AL SEIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Former and current Bell city employees, Robert Rizzo (L), former city manager, Angela Spaccia (2L), former assistant city manager, Victor Bello (3L), former council member, and Oscar Hernandez (R), mayor, attend a bail reduction hearing on September 22, 2010. (AL SEIB/AFP/Getty Images)

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BELL (AP) — The former city manager of Bell will soon learn whether he must stand trial on dozens of charges of looting the modest city’s treasury.

Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall is expected to issue his ruling Thursday morning following a preliminary hearing that began last month.

Former city manager Robert Rizzo, 57, is charged with more than 50 counts of misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest and falsification of public records.

Prosecutors say he was the mastermind of a scam in which he and others stole millions from Bell by illegally inflating their salaries.

They say Rizzo also doled out nearly $2 million in unauthorized loans of public money to himself and dozens of others and that he hid his and others’ salaries by falsifying public records.

Also facing charges are former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former Councilman Luis Artiga and former Bell City Manager Angela Spaccia.

Rizzo was fired last summer, shortly after the Los Angeles Times reported he had an annual salary and compensation package of $1.5 million to run the modest Los Angeles suburb of 40,000 residents where one in six people live in poverty.

He, Spaccia, Artiga, Hernandez and four other past and present Bell officials were arrested in September, charged with taking part in a scam that looted the city by illegally diverting property taxes and other funds to pay themselves and others huge salaries.

Defense lawyers have maintained it is no crime to be well paid and that Rizzo and the others did not break any laws in accepting the salaries and loans.

Hall’s ruling comes two days after angry Bell residents went to the polls to vote in a new City Council.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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