September 22, 2010 By Wallin & Klarich

On September 21, 2010, eight current and former city officials were arrested and charged with numerous counts of misappropriation of city funds and crimes related to the abuse of their authority. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley alleged that the accused Bell officials misappropriated over $5.5 million in city funds.

The accused officials are former city manager Robert Rizzo, the alleged mastermind behind the corruption scheme; Mayor Oscar Hernandez; former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia; Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo; council members George Mirabal and Luis Artiga; and former council member George Cole and Victor Bello.

The scandal gained national attention when news broke of the accused officials high salaries. Rizzo’s salary at the time he left the city manager position was almost $800,000, and since he was hired city manager in 1993, the council voted to raise his salary 16 times. Rizzo is currently charged with 53 counts of misappropriating public funds.

Rizzo’s attorney accused Cooley of political grandstanding because Cooley ensured that media were present to witness Rizzo’s arrest. Cooley is a candidate for California attorney general in the upcoming November 2010 election.

Attorney General Jerry Brown has also filed suit on behalf of the state against the accused officials to recover the excess taxes the city collected to pay for the Bell officials’ salaries. He also seeks to reduce the accused officials’ pensions.

Under Penal Code section 424(a), a local official who improperly uses publicly entrusted funds is guilty of misappropriation of funds. If convicted, the person will serve two, three, or four years in state prison, and is barred from holding state office.

Under Penal Code section 503, “[e]mbezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been [e]ntrusted.”

If you or someone you know has been accused of a white collar crime, you will need an experienced Los Angeles white collar criminal attorney. For over 30 years, Wallin & Klarich has helped people accused of a variety of criminal matters, including white collar crime. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 or visit us at our website at We will be there when you call.

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