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City Officials Accused of 'Corruption on Steroids' in Bell, Calif.


"The citizens of Bell were not paying attention..."

After an investigation revealed that a number of city officials of Bell, Calif., were receiving grossly inflated salaries, eight city officials were officially charged with wrongdoing Tuesday, including the former city manager who was arrested on 53 various counts of corruption. District Attorney Steve Cooley called the scandal "corruption on steroids" -- a scandal that has cost the blue-collar town of 40,000 more than $5.5 million.

Cooley said the group of eight Democrats was able to get away with the corruption because the citizens of Bell weren't paying attention.

Ex-city manager Robert Rizzo was making nearly $800,000 a year and is expected to be arraigned Wednesday on 53 counts of "misappropriation of public funds" and conflict of interest. If convicted, Cooley says Rizzo could face several years in prison.

Others taken into custody were former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia, Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, council members George Mirabal and Luis Artiga, and former council members George Cole and Victor Bello.

Rizzo stands accused of making $4.3 million by paying himself through various employment contracts that were not approved by the City Council. In turn, council members are accused of paying themselves a combined $1.25 million for what Cooley called "phantom meetings" of city boards and agencies. Rizzo is also accused of giving $1.9 million in loans to himself, Spaccia, Hernandez, Artiga and dozens of others, authorities said.

"They used the taxes of the hardworking citizens of Bell as their own piggy bank, which they looted," the district attorney said.

Rizzo, Adams and Spaccia resigned and the council members reduced their salaries to about $8,000 following the disclosures and angry public reaction. The four remaining council members are currently being targeted by a public recall campaign. In the meantime, they continue holding the "official" duties of running the city.

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