Bell officials face more charges

BELL - Additional felony charges were filed last week against Robert Rizzo, the former city manager of Bell, who with several current and former council members faces charges of misappropriating more than $5.5 million in tax dollars.Last week's charges - one count each of conflict of interest and one of misappropriation of public funds - allege that Rizzo took an additional $2.4 million from city coffers. "I promised last month when the first wave of charges were filed that the investigation of the looting of Bell was ongoing and there was more to come," said District Attorney Steve Cooley. "Filing of the original charges was a good beginning. Today's case is another step in the continuing process." The additional charges filed against Rizzo stems from a contract he allegedly influenced between the city of Bell and D&J Engineering. Rizzo and the owner of the engineering firm were partners in a horse racing business. Rizzo, six present and former Bell city council members, and one other city official were charged late last month in two separate cases. The former council members were charged in one case. Rizzo, two council members and another city administrator were charged in the other. Most are free on bail, including Rizzo, whose bond was set by a Superior Court judge at $2 million. The prosecution had requested a substantially higher bond for Rizzo, who Cooley termed "the unelected and unaccountable czar of the city of Bell." All appeared in court last week where they pleaded not guilty to the misappropriation of millions of city tax dollars for personal use. They were arraigned and are due back in court Dec. 8. Besides Rizzo, the defendants are former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia; Mayor Oscar Hernandez; city council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal; and former council members Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello. Artiga resigned after charges were filed against him last month. In an unrelated case, officials from the city of Irwindale were accused this week of spending tax dollars on Broadway shows, baseball games and expensive dinners during a trip to New York City for city business. The four officials are charged with spending $14,000 of taxpayer money for personal use.

********** Published: October 28, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 28