Bell corruption case: Angela Spaccia sentenced to 11 years


On Thursday, Spaccia's attorney tried to bring Robert Rizzo, Bell's former city manager, to court to show that Rizzo made the rules and Spaccia followed them.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy denied that motion, saying that if his testimony was so important he should have been brought in during the trial. She also shut down a motion for a new trial during the sentencing hearing.

The judge called Spaccia a "con artist" during the hearing and ordered Spaccia to pay over $8.2 million in restitution to city of Bell. As Kennedy handed down the sentence, she said Spaccia never showed any remorse.

"I'm going to impose the high term of four years on count four, and the reason why I'm selecting the high term is because of the sophistication with which this scheme was carried out and the vulnerability of the victims in the city of Bell that had no way of knowing what was happening," Kennedy said.

Spaccia had denied culpability, went to trial, and was convicted of 11 out of 13 felonies, including conspiracy, misappropriating public funds, falsification of government records and conflict of interest.

Outside of court, Spaccia's lawyer Harland Braun said the judge was biased and that she illegally worked out a plea deal with the prosecution that helped Rizzo.

"The Supreme Court has instructed judges in California not to plea bargain, and she plea bargained for a softer deal for Robert Rizzo," Braun said.

Authorities allege Rizzo came up with the plan to siphon money from the city and gave himself and City Council members hefty salaries. Prosecutors allege that over the course of four years, Rizzo made about $570,000 in illegal deductions. Spaccia allegedly made $564,000 a year.

An audit of the State Controller's Office found Bell had illegally raised property taxes and business licensing fees to keep the money flowing. At one point, homeowners in Bell where the annual median household income is about $36,000 a year, were paying higher property taxes than those in Beverly Hills.

By the time they were fired in 2010, Rizzo and Spaccia, were collecting salaries higher than that of the president of the United States.

"We trusted them with our life and our voice and we got hurt," said Brett Areyan, a Bell resident, at the sentencing.

Rizzo pleaded no contest plea to 69 corruption charges. He faces a maximum eight-year term in the federal case, and is scheduled to be sentenced April 14. His sentence in the Los Angeles Superior Court case regarding corruption charges is scheduled for April 16.

On Wednesday, five ex-Bell City Council members charged in the city's corruption scandal agreed to accept a plea deal. Under the agreement with prosecutors, the defendants will face a maximum of four years in prison.

Former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal were each convicted on March 20, 2013, of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five other charges.

Former Councilman George Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others, while former Councilman Victor Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.

Jurors deadlocked on a handful of counts against the five, with the prosecution announcing in May that it intended to retry those charges. The plea deals reached Wednesday resolve those remaining counts, eliminating the need for another trial.

"It's great to have some closure. The people of bell deserved," said Sean Hassett, deputy district attorney.

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