Four former U.S. Bell City officials ordered to stand trial on corruption charges

15:23, March 11, 2011      

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A judge in the U.S. state of California on Thursday ordered four former officials of a local city to stand trial on charges of misappropriating millions of dollars from public coffers through lofty salaries and loans of taxpayer money.

Former Bell City chief administrator Robert Rizzo is charged with more than 50 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest and falsification of documents. He also is charged in a separate case with two counts of misappropriation of public funds.

His former top assistant, Angela Spaccia, is charged with four counts of misappropriation of public funds.

Former mayor Oscar Hernandez and former councilman Luis Artiga were also ordered to stand trial on various charges.

The four will be arraigned on March 24.

The ruling was given by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall after roughly three weeks of preliminary hearing.

The third and final preliminary hearing in the case will begin next week.

Rizzo and seven other former Bell officials were arrested last September as a result of a corruption and salary scandal that has rocked the working-class city in suburban Los Angeles.

With a small population of about 38,000, Bell City found itself in the national spotlight when local media reported in July that some top city officials were making exorbitant salaries. Rizzo was paid an annual salary of 787,637 dollars, and Spaccia, 376,000.

Additionally, Hernandez, Artiga and other two of the city's four council members -- Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal -- were being paid 97,000 for their part-time jobs.

It's also been reported that the disgraced officials are eligible for huge pensions; that some had taken out questionable loans from the city; that residents' property tax rates were unlawfully high; and that the city also overcharged them for sewer service.

Source: Xinhua

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