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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

4/18/2014 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Politician nearly bankrupted tiny city of Bell, California

Bell, California is a small town with less than 36,000 people. That didn't stop City Manager Robert Rizzo, along with his friends, from awarding themselves hefty raises and drawing yearly salaries as high as $1.5 million. It was fun while it lasted - now Rizzo has pleaded guilty to 69 criminal counts and will spend the next 12 years in a small room with bars on the window.

Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo's party came crashing down when it was revealed in 2010 that Rizzo was giving himself an annual salary and benefits package of $1.5 million.

Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo's party came crashing down when it was revealed in 2010 that Rizzo was giving himself an annual salary and benefits package of $1.5 million.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/18/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Bell, California, corruption, Robert rizzo


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest, perjury by declaration and falsification of public records by an official custodian are just a few of the charges leveled against Rizzo.

He's been sentenced to 12 years in prison and has been ordered to make restitution of $8.8 million in a corruption scheme that nearly bankrupted the humble City of Bell.

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Rizzo apologized during sentencing in Los Angeles County Superior Court, telling Judge Kathleen Kennedy he breached the public's confidence.

"It is a good thing to hear that he is sorry, and I'll take him at his word that he is sorry," Kennedy said before addressing Rizzo directly. "But it doesn't change the fact that, Mr. Rizzo, you did some very, very bad things for a very long time."

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," the judge invoked. She passed on suggestion that she only give Rizzo five years in prison. "There were no checks and balances to control Mr. Rizzo and those that were in power in the city."

Kennedy noted that Rizzo and the other officials "gradually just chiseled away at any controls that anyone else would be able to assert."

Rizzo's party came crashing down when it was revealed in 2010 that Rizzo was giving himself an annual salary and benefits package of $1.5 million. A quarter of the population in Bell lives below the federal poverty line. His $800,000 in wages alone was DOUBLE that of the president of the United States.

Rizzo was sentenced separately to 33 months in federal prison for income tax evasion after he acknowledged reporting more than $700,000 in phony deductions to reduce tax liability on money that authorities say he stole from Bell.

The sentence in the corruption case will run concurrently with the federal term. Rizzo will serve the first 33 months in federal prison then go to state prison. He will be on parole for three years after he serves his time.

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