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Bell scandal: Corruption trial set for 6 city leaders

The city hall in the city of Bell is seen in this undated file photo.

January 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Six former Bell city officials are scheduled to go on trial this week for public corruption charges that nearly left the city bankrupt.

The former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former Vice-Mayor Teresa Jacobo and former City Council members George Mirabal, George Cole, Victor Bello and Luis Artiga are accused of misappropriating public funds in a 20-count felony complaint.

Prosecutors claim the Bell leaders looted the city's treasury in order to pay themselves exorbitant salaries which combined neared $1.2 million.

"These people were elected to be the voice of the people, to be a safeguard," said Superior Court Judge Henry Hall, who ordered them held for trial. "And they basically sold that off."

Former city employees who discovered the dealings are scheduled to testify in the case.

Jury selection will begin Tuesday and is scheduled to last seven weeks.

Two major figures involved in the alleged corruption case are not part of this trial. Former City Manager Robert Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia are scheduled to be tried separately. The two suspects reportedly pocketed millions while hiking taxes and fees for city residents. Rizzo earned an annual salary and compensation package worth $1.5 million while Spaccia was paid $376,288 a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.