Former Bell City Leader Robert Rizzo Sentenced To 12 Years

Former Bell City Leader Robert Rizzo Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison

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Los Angeles, CA -

Is 12 years enough ? Depends on your perspective 

Johnny Cabrea was sitting on his front stoop, smoking a cigarette and drinking a tall boy in the afternoon heat. His dark sunglasses reflected the world in front him, a world in which has very little money and guys like Robert Rizzo have too much. 

"All that money they took, they should pay it back. We need that money, not them."  Good luck. As part of the 12 year state sentence former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo got in court this morning, was an order to pay restitution of almost 9 million dollars. Money his attorney says he doesn't have. ‘' Squandered ‘' was the word most often used. 

Rizzo apologized to the court before sentencing, speaking out for the first time. Saying he was "Sorry, he accepted responsibility, and wanted to heal."  He said the same thing, briefly to the crowd of reporters who followed him after he left the courthouse. He was almost crying.   Looking for sympathy? Forget it. 

He got the maximum in the range considering he pleaded no contest. Judge Kathleen Kennedy saying Rizzo ‘'Did some very very bad things for a very long time.. saying Rizzo was like ‘' A Godfather character, where people would come up to him for favors, giving him power." Kennedy, unlike most judges, is quite willing to share her personal opinions in open court, which makes things a lot more interesting if you ever have time to go to her courtroom on the 9th floor of the Criminal Courts building downtown.  

Meantime in Bell the relatively new City Manager, Doug Willmore , said residents will be paying off the debt Rizzo got them into (by selling General Obligation bonds to pay for all the inflated salaries) for at least twenty years.  Depressing, but at least this is behind them.

 


 

(FOX 11 / CNS) Former Bell chief administrative officer Robert Rizzo, whose seven-figure salary as head of a small, working-class city made him the central figure in a headline-grabbing corruption probe, was sentenced today to 12 years in prison.

Rizzo was also ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution. He will surrender to begin serving his prison time May 30 -- beginning with the 33-month federal prison term he received Monday for tax fraud.

Despite a federal judge's order that Rizzo's federal term be served on top of whatever sentence he received in state court, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen G. Kennedy said today that Rizzo's 12-year state term will be served concurrently with his federal sentence.

"I did breach the public confidence," Rizzo told Kennedy before sentencing. "I am very, very sorry and I apologize for that." Rizzo, 60, pleaded no contest in October to all 69 counts against him in the massive corruption probe that also resulted in the convictions of six
other former city leaders.

His plea -- to 46 counts of misappropriation of public funds; six counts each of conflict of interest, perjury by declaration and falsification of public records by an official custodian; along with two counts each of falsification of an official record and secretion of an official record; and
one count of conspiracy to misappropriate public funds -- came one week before he was scheduled to go on trial.

Kennedy scolded Rizzo during the sentencing hearing, saying that the corruption that gripped Bell was maintained because none of the officials involved "wanted to upset the apple cart because they were paid so well."

"Mr. Rizzo, you did a lot of very bad things for a very long time," she said. Rizzo had a total compensation package of roughly $1.5 million when he retired in 2010.

Rizzo's former assistant, Angela Spaccia, was convicted in December on 11 counts, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest, and was sentenced last week to 11 years and eight months in state prison. She was also ordered to pay more than $8 million in restitution to the city.

Meanwhile, five former Bell city council members are awaiting sentencing at hearings in June and July on charges that they misappropriated public funds by accepting inflated salaries for sitting on city boards that the prosecution contended rarely met.

Former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal were each convicted March 20, 2013, of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five others. 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 last May that it intended to retry those charges. Kennedy had urged both sides to try to work out a deal, eliminating the need for a retrial and bringing the Bell corruption saga closer to an end.

At a hearing last week, the five pleaded no contest to two felony counts each of misappropriation of public funds. It will be up to the judge to determine what sentences the five will actually face, with the minimum term being probation and the maximum being a four-year "lid" that will include the crimes on which they were convicted at trial. The five are also expected to be ordered to pay restitution. Anthony Taylor, an attorney for the city of Bell, said the restitution by the former officials could total nearly $1 million, noting that restitution has been calculated "to the penny" for each of the defendants.

Bell City Councilwoman Violetta Alvarez said during today's sentencing hearing that she was unmoved by Rizzo's apology. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," she said.

"That is the theme of what happened in Bell."

From Bob DeCastro:

The central figure in one of the biggest public corruption scandals in Los Angeles County history will be sentenced today. 

Last October, former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 counts including misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest, and perjury. Instead of going through trial, Rizzo hoped for leniency and offered to help prosecutors convict his right hand person-- former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia.

Last week, Spaccia was sentenced to nearly 12 years in state prison for her role in the scheme. Back in 2010 the small blue-collar city of just 36,000 people learned they were paying higher property taxes then people in Beverly Hills. A state comptrollers audit revealed $5.5 million had been looted from the city's coffers, in large part to pay for huge salaries of City Employees.  Rizzo had a total compensation of $1.5 million a year, Spaccia was paid $564,000, and councilmembers were paid some $100,000 each for part-time jobs.

Rizzo has already been sentenced to 33 months in prison for federal tax evasion.  Today, he faces an additional 10 to 12 years in state prison. The judge will decide whether he will serve those sentences concurrently.

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