Five Former Bell Officials Accept Plea Deal In Corruption Case
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Five former Bell City Council members Wednesday agreed to accept a plea deal in the city’s corruption scandal.
Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, George Cole and Victor Bello pleaded no contest and will face a maximum of four years in prison.
“We want full restitution plus they need to spend time in jail. They have to pay the consequences the city of Bell is paying. When we talk about the city of Bell, we are talking about the residents — human beings that are paying for their mistakes,” current council member Violeta Alvarez said.
Hernandez, Jacobo and Mirabal were convicted last March of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five others. Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others and Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.
Jurors were deadlocked on a handful of remaining counts and intended to retry them, but Wednesday’s plea deal resolved those remaining counts and eliminated the need for another trial, officials said. All five are expected to be sentenced in the beginning of June.
The corruption scandal, which drove the city of Bell to the brink of bankruptcy, first came to light in 2010 after hefty salaries of the city officials were exposed. Prosecution argued the five defendants were paid illegal salaries for sitting on city boards that rarely met, yet they received nearly $100,000 salaries.
Former Bell assistant city administrator Angela Spaccia was also charged in the case and was convicted in Dec. 2013 of 11 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest.
Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo pleaded no contest to all 69 counts against him. Rizzo, who is set to be sentenced on April 16, faces a minimum of 10 years and maximum of 12 years in state prison. In addition, he pleaded guilty in January to two felony charges: conspiracy and filing a false federal income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service. He faces a maximum of eight years in prison, which is expected to be served at the same time as the tax charges.