Ex-Bell Manager Pleads No Contest to Corruption Charges

The former city manager of Bell, California, pleaded no contest to 69 counts related to the public-corruption scandal in the blue-collar Los Angeles suburb, including misappropriation of public funds.

Robert Rizzo, who was paid almost $800,000 a year before he resigned in 2010, entered the plea less than a week before he was scheduled to go on trial, according to a statement today from District Attorney Jackie Lacey. A no-contest plea has the same effect as a plea of guilty. Rizzo faces a sentence of at least 10 years in prison, according to the statement.

“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,” Lacey said in the statement.

Rizzo, 59, and seven other former Bell officials were arrested three years ago and charged with misappropriation of more than $5.5 million in public funds. Five former City Council members were convicted of misappropriation by a jury in May.

James Spertus, Rizzo’s lawyer, said in a telephone interview that he expects his client to spend no more than five years in custody. Rizzo is expected to enter a plea in a separate federal tax case and serve the bulk of the sentence in federal prison, according to his lawyer.

Lawyer’s Statement

“Mr. Rizzo wants to put these issues behind him and return to his family as soon as possible,” Spertus said.

Bell, located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, has five council members who serve part-time and select the city’s mayor from among themselves. The median household income of the city’s residents is $37,121 and 93 percent of them are Hispanic, according to U.S. Census data. Twenty-five percent live below the poverty line.

The case is People v. Rizzo, BA382701, Los Angeles County Superior Court (Los Angeles).

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