The last of seven former Bell city officials convicted in a public corruption scandal that outraged the community south of downtown Los Angeles was sentenced Friday to jail and ordered to pay restitution.
Former Bell Councilman Victor Bello, 55, was sentenced to one year in county jail and five years probation. He was ordered to complete 500 hours of community service and pay more than $177,600 in restitution to the city of Bell.
Bello and the other former council members were convicted last year of misappropriating public funds and boosting their pay for their involvement on city boards that rarely met and did little, if any, work. Bello's salary, like those of the other city officials, increased significantly from the time he began serving on the council. He earned $434 per month when he became a member in 1998, but was earning about $100,000 per year by the time resigned in the wake of a Los Angeles Times report that exposed the corruption.
Bello and his colleagues pleaded no contest April 9 to two felony counts each of misappropriation of public funds -- charges on which jurors had deadlocked -- to resolve the case against them. Bello will get credit for 340 days of jail time he already served.
His attorney noted in his sentencing memorandum that Bello "assisted greatly as a whistleblower in bringing to light the corruption in the city of Bell," but found himself a criminal defendant instead of being offered immunity for having come forward against Robert Rizzo, the city's former chief administrative officer, and others.
Prosecutors asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy to impose the maximum four-year state prison term for each of the five former council members, but the longest term imposed was a two-year prison term for former Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo, who was sentenced last Friday. Jacobo also was ordered to pay more than $242,000 in restitution to the city of Bell.
Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former Councilman George Mirabal, who were convicted along with Jacobo of five counts and acquitted of five others, each were sentenced to a year in jail, 1,000 hours of community service and five years probation. They also were ordered to pay more than $240,000 in restitution.
Former Councilman George Cole -- who was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others -- was sentenced to 180 days home confinement under electronic monitoring, 1,000 hours of community service and five years probation. He was ordered to pay more than $77,000 in restitution to the city.
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. Bell's former assistant chief administrative officer, Angela 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.