Patrick Healy, Kristopher Li, Jeffrey Scharping
Bell's former assistant chief administrator, Angela Spaccia, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in prison and ordered to pay $8.2 million in restitution for her involvement in a public corruption case where millions of taxpayers dollars were misappropriated. Patrick Healy reports for NBC4 News at noon from the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles Thursday, April 10, 2014.
A former assistant chief administrator accused of illegally boosting her salary and those of other city officials by misappropriating millions of taxpayer dollars was sentenced Thursday in a public corruption scandal that outraged a community southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Angela Spaccia, who was charged with 13 corruption-related felony counts, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in prison. She was ordered to pay $8.2 million in restitution.
Spaccia was convicted earlier this year on 11 counts -- including taking more than $230,000 in loans without council approval -- in what prosecutors described as a case of taxpayer betrayal. She was acquitted of one count of secretion of an official record, as it pertained to former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams' employment contract.
Spaccia was considered second-in-command to the man who became the face of the scandal in the unincorporated community of Bell, former City Manager Robert Rizzo. Spaccia's sentencing comes about three months after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and one day after five ex-Bell council members accepted a plea deal in the case.
"It was love at first sight between the two of them," said Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett. "They never met a dollar in the city of Bell they didn't like."
The two illegally boosted their salaries -- Spaccia's annual pay went from $102,310 when she was hired in 2003 to $376,000 in 2008 -- by writing their own employment contracts.
Five former city council members -- George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo, Victor Bello and George Mirabal -- were convicted at an earlier trial, but faced a re-trial on corruption charges. They faced a deadline this month to decide on the agreement, which caps their prison terms at four years.
Spaccia not only failed to perform her duty and protect the people of Bell, but she was an integral part of the scheme to boost salaries, prosecutors said.
"The residents of Bell depended and relied upon defendant Spaccia to do her job honestly and with integrity," Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett said in a sentencing memo. "Defendant Spaccia wholly abandoned her duty to the people of Bell and acted only in furtherance of her own corrupt and selfish motives."
After the trial, jurors were deadlocked 6-6 on the remaining count of misappropriation of public funds pertaining to $77,500 loan she allegedly received in 2003. Judge Kathleen Kennedy declared a mistrial on that count.
If she had been found guilty on all counts, Spaccia could have faced up to 16 years in state prison.
On Thursday, Kennedy referenced an email in which Spaccia urged Chief Adams not to get greedy. The email exchange during Adams' salary negotiations was considered a key piece of evidence during the trial.
Spaccia wrote: "...you can take your share of the pie ... just like us!!! We all will get fat together ... Bob has an expression he likes to use on occasion ... Pigs get Fat ... Hogs get slaughtered!!! So long as we're not Hogs ... all is well!!"
"Greed overtook," Kennedy said at the sentencing. "She became a hog, not a pig."
Spaccia's attorney, Harlan Braun, said he was disappointed in the outcome of the trial after the conviction. He told jurors that she was paid too much -- but she wasn't involved in criminal conduct.
But prosecutors say Rizzo stole millions of dollars from the city and Spaccia "helped him every step of the way."
Prosecutors called the salaries and retirement package figures in the tiny southeast Los Angeles County city of Bell "ridiculous sums of money." Spaccia was making a base salary of $370,000, prosecutors said. By 2010, she was earning $564,000 annually with vacation and sick pay. Rizzo was taking in more than $1 million a year, prosecutors said.
Rizzo pleaded no contest Oct. 3 to 69 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds, less than a week before their trial was set to begin. He is scheduled for sentencing April 16.
A Los Angeles Times investigation shed light on corruption in the city of Bell and the district attorney's Bureau of Investigation launched its probe in 2010. Rizzo, Spaccia and the council members were arrested and charged later that year.