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Robert Rizzo reportedly had secret $4.5M retirement fund

April 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo reportedly set up a secret retirement fund worth millions of dollars.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the fund contained $4.5 million and consisted of two pension plans.

One covered about 40 employees and the other covered just Rizzo and his former assistant Angela Spaccia.

The Times reported that the accounts were designed to provide retirement income above what he and other employees would get from the state pension system.

Bell is seeking to get that money, nearly a quarter of the city's annual budget, to help with its budget problems.

"I knew it was big, but not so tremendously, humongous, super big," said newly elected Councilwoman Violeta Alvarez. "On the chopping block there are a lot of cuts, but one of the cuts we are talking about is the police department, and that is one of the entities that I don't want to go away."

Investigators found the funds in a special Wells Fargo retirement account. Bells interim City Attorney James Casso says the District Attorney is seeking restitution. But before any money is released, Rizzo must be convicted.

Rizzo and eight other officials are accused of bilking the city out of more than $5.5 million through hefty salaries, benefits and illicit loans of public money.

Rizzo, the alleged ringleader in the salary scandal, is charged with more than 50 counts of fraud, including 44 counts of misappropriation of public funds, six counts of falsification of records by an official custodian, three counts of conflict of interest and one count of public officer crime.

Rizzo's attorney James Spertus said he set up the retirement fund legally.

"We will have a trial, but that's all that's been established, that there's probable cause to have a trial," Spertus said. "Other than that probable cause finding, there absolutely zero finding of wrongdoing by Mr. Rizzo. Absolutely he protests his innocence."

Charged along with Rizzo, 56, are Spaccia, 52; former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 63; former city council members Teresa Jacobo, 52; George Mirabal, 60; Luis Artiga, 49; George Cole, 60; and Victor Bello, 51.