Prosecutors Intend to Retry Bell City Leaders Accused of Corruption

Prosecutors announced Tuesday they intend to retry five former Bell city officials already convicted of misappropriating public funds by collecting exorbitant salaries.

Former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and ex-City Council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, George Cole and Victor Bello were all convicted in March, but jurors deadlocked on a handful of counts, prompting Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy to declare a mistrial on those charges.

District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jean Guccione told City News Service prosecutors want to retry to the former officials on the counts. A court hearing is set for May 29.

On March 20, Hernandez, Jacobo and Mirabal were each convicted of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five others. Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others, while Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.

The panel completely exonerated former Councilman Luis Artiga of all 12 counts against him.

The jury's foreman told the judge that nine of the jurors favored conviction on the deadlocked counts, while three others were voting in favor of acquittal.

Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller told jurors during the trial that the officials misappropriated public funds by collecting unlawful salaries for sitting on four city boards -- the Community Housing Authority, Surplus Property Authority, Public Financing Authority and Solid Waste and Recycling Authority -- that rarely met.

Defense attorneys maintained their clients were wrongly accused, arguing they worked diligently for the city and earned their salaries.

All six defendants were acquitted of charges involving payment for service as a member of the city's Public Financing Authority.

Hernandez, Jacobo, Mirabal, Bello and Cole were each convicted of charges involving payment for their service on the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority, but jurors deadlocked on 10 charges involving payment for their work on the city's Community Housing Authority and the Surplus Property Authority.

Hernandez, Jacobo and Mirabal were each originally charged with 20 counts of misappropriating public funds between January 2006 and July 2010; Bello was charged with 16 counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2009; Artiga was charged with 12 counts of misappropriation between January 2008 and July 2010; and Cole was charged with eight counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2007.

Former City Manager Robert Rizzo, 59, who is accused of being the mastermind of the alleged corruption scheme, is awaiting trial separately, along with former assistant Angela Spaccia, 54, on corruption-related charges.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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