Robert Rizzo Admits Role in Bell Corruption, Could Face 10+ Years
Robert Rizzo, the alleged mastermind in the city of Bell's salary scandal, is facing what might be the longest prison sentence for public corruption in the 13-year history of the L.A. county District Attorney's Public Integrity Division (PID).
Robert Rizzo by Ted Soqui for LA Weekly
See also: City of Bell Corruption.
The D.A.'s office announced this afternoon that Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest after prosecutors alleged hie was the kingpin of a conspiracy by city officials in the small, Latino town that bilked taxpayers out of $5.5 million in pay and benefits:
In a statement the D.A.'s office said Rizzo pleaded no contest to all the counts against him and would face a "prison sentence will be the longest for anyone convicted of public corruption since PID was established in 2000."
That would be a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 12 years under state law, the office said.
Even prosecutors said they were surprised by Rizzo's move and said it was not part of a plea bargain.
The former city manager had so far been defiant and reclusive about the scandal.
In 2011 he sued the city the Bell for $1.5 million for allegedly firing him for reasons outside his work contract. Really.
He was taking home an $800,000, taxpayer-funded salary before his arrest in 2010.
Now Rizzo was told today by Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy that he will have to testify truthfully in the trial of his underling, Angela Spaccia, which starts tomorrow, a D.A.'s spokeswoman told us.
See also: City Of Bell Officials Arrested.
Earlier this year ex-Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and four council members, Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, Victor Bello, and George Cole, were found guilty of misappropriation of public funds for taking home six-figure incomes that were allegedly arranged by Rizzo.
The scandal erupted in 2010 when a city whistleblower tipped off the District Attorney's office about the wrongdoing in the southeast L.A. town.
D.A. Jackey Lacey said this today:
Although we were prepared to go to trial and felt confident we could convict Mr. Rizzo of all charges, we are pleased he chose to admit his guilt and accept full responsibility for the irreparable harm he caused the people of Bell.