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Robert Rizzo sentenced to 12 years in prison for Bell corruption

Former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in state prison for a massive corruption scandal.
April 16, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo has been sentenced to 12 years in state prison for a massive corruption scandal that cost taxpayers millions.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy denied probation for Rizzo, who had pleaded no contest to 69 corruption-related counts. Rizzo was believed to be the ring leader in the scandal, giving himself and the city council inflated salaries while residents paid incredibly high property taxes.

A quarter of the population in the city of Bell lives below the federal poverty line, yet Rizzo was receiving an annual salary and benefits package of $1.5 million.

"Mr. Rizzo, you did some very, very bad things for a very long time," Kennedy said.

Rizzo's attorney made a plea for leniency during the sentencing, but Kennedy imposed the maximum sentence. Rizzo was also ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution to the city. He has already paid back $242,719.56, so the restitution amount is about $8.6 million. The amount is shared with Angela Spaccia, Bell's former assistant city manager.

On Monday, Rizzo was sentenced to 33 months in prison on separate federal charges of tax evasion. The sentence in the state corruption case will run concurrently with the federal sentence.

Rizzo was allowed to stay out on bail and was ordered to surrender on May 30 to begin serving his sentence.

Just before his sentencing, Rizzo apologized, saying "I breached the public trust."

"All I can do today is to ask you to please understand that I am sorry. I will never do anything like this again," Rizzo said.

Several Bell residents were in court for the sentencing hearing.

"I hope he will see right now that there are people that are suffering this day because of his mistakes," said Alfred Areyan of Bell. "We trusted him and others to be our representatives, and it just grieves my spirit today to finally see justice."

Spaccia was sentenced last Wednesday to 11 years and eight months for her role in the corruption case, while five former city council members took a plea deal last week for a maximum of four years in prison. Those four defendants, including former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal and George Cole, will be sentenced separately at a later date.

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