Ex-Bell Councilman Sentenced to Home Confinement in Corruption Scandal

The former Bell official also was ordered to pay $77,000 in restitution to the city

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    Former Bell council member George Cole (right) listens to closing arguments presented by Deputy Dist. Atty. Edward Miller on February 20, 2013 in Los Angeles.

    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.

    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.

    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.