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Mixed Verdict In Bell Corruption Trial

| March 20, 2013
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The verdict is in for six former officials of the Los Angeles suburb of Bell standing trial for ripping off public funds. After 18 days, the jury in the case returned a mix of guilty and not guilty verdicts against former members of the City Council who were discovered to have awarded themselves huge salaries while holding part-time city posts and serving on local boards that rarely met. Five members of the council were convicted on half the counts brought against them; one member was acquitted on all counts.

Closing Arguments Under Way In Corruption Trial Of Bell City Officials

Former Bell council member George Cole, who was found guilty on two counts of misappropriation of public funds, listens to closing arguments during the trial in February. ( Irfan Khan – Pool/Getty Images)

  • Oscar Hernandez, Bell’s former mayor, was found guilty of five counts of misappropriation of funds related to the payment for services on the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority and not guilty of five counts of misappropriation of funds for payment of services related to the Public Finance Authority.
  • Teresa Jacobo was found guilty of five counts of misappropriation of funds related to the Solid Waste Authority and not guilty of five counts of misappropriation related to the Public Finance Authority.
  • George Mirabal was found guilty of five counts of misappropriation of funds related to the Solid Waste Authority and not guilty of five counts of misappropriation related to of the Public Finance Authority
  • George Cole was found guilty of two counts of misappropriation of funds related to the Solid Waste Recycling Committee and not guilty of two counts of misappropriation related to the Public Finance Authority.
  • Victor Bello was found guilty of four counts of misappropriation of funds related to the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority and not guilty of misappropriation of funds related to the Public Finance Authority.
  • Luis Artiga was found not guilty on all 12 counts of misappropriation of public funds relating to several local boards. He was also acquitted on special allegations that he took property exceeding $65,000 and $100,000.

The jury said it was unable to reach a verdict on multiple other counts.

The councilmembers’ salaries were among the highest salaries of any local officials in the county. The part-time posts they members held involved little work, prosecutors argued.

The defense portrayed the councilmembers as pawns of former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, and called him the real mastermind of a scheme to misappropriate funds. Rizzo and his assistant also face criminal charges and will be tried at a later date.

More Bell coverage from KQED and NPR:

Deliberations in Bell Corruption Trial Hit a Snag

How the L.A. Times Broke the Bell Corruption Story

Other Cities Will Pay for Bell’s High-Ticket Pensions

Bell Fraud Prompts Statewide Legislation

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Category: Law

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