A former Bell city council member accused in a public corruption scandal was sentenced Wednesday to probation, community service and home confinement.
George Cole is the second to five former Bell city council members convicted of misappropriating public funds in the community south of downtown Los Angeles. The council members were paid inflated salaries for sitting on city boards that rarely met.
Cole, 64, was sentenced to five years probation, 180 days of home confinement and 1,000 hours of community service. He also must pay more than $77,000 in restitution to the city of 35,000 people and wear a GPS ankle monitor.
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Cole was convicted in March 2013 of two counts and acquitted of two others. Former council members George Mirabal and Teresa Jacobo and former Mayor Oscar Hernandez were convicted of five counts and acquitted of five others. Former Councilman Victor Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.
The five pleaded no contest April 9 to two felony counts each of misappropriation of public funds in a plea deal -- charges on which jurors had deadlocked -- to resolve the case against them.
Jurors exonerated former Councilman Luis Artiga of all 12 charges against him.
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Mirabal, 64, was the first of the five to be sentenced July 11. He was ordered to serve a year in county jail, five years probation and 1,000 hours of community service, rejecting the prosecution's request of a four-year state prison term.
The prosecution also recommened a four-year state prison sentence for Cole, who was paid about $75,000 in one year for serving on two "sham boards" created by the city council. Cole was paid about $430 per month when he was first elected in 1984.
In a sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett noted that Cole "continued to play an active part, voting for additional unearned and illegal raises for his co-defendants, although he did not personally benefit from them" when he was not accepting a city salary from November 2007 to October 2008. The prosecutor also noted that Cole has been "working with the city of Bell for months in order to pay full restitution."
Cole's attorney, Ronald Kaye, asked for a probationary sentence without any jail time, citing his client's health. During the trial, Kaye told jurors that the veteran city councilman decided to work without pay after realizing in November 2007 that people in the city of Bell had been laid off, and that a "huge rift" developed with then- Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo after Cole said he did not want to be paid.
Jacobo, 56, is set to be sentenced Friday, with Hernandez, 66, and Bello, 55, expected to be sentenced next week. The five were charged in September 2010 along with Rizzo and former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia.
Rizzo pleaded no contest last October to all 69 charges against him and was sentenced April 17 to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution. Spaccia was convicted last December of 11 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. Jurors acquitted her of one count of secretion of a public record involving former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams' employment contract, and deadlocked on another count -- misappropriation of public funds involving an alleged $75,500 loan of taxpayer money in 2003 -- that was eventually dismissed.