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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

3/21/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Officials paid themselves outrageous salaries and raised taxes to do it.

In a town where one in four citizens live below the poverty line, former mayors and other elected officials were convicted yesterday of playing themselves inflated salaries and illegally raising taxes to pay themselves. Officials from the city of Bell, California were found guilty of misappropriating funds from the blue-collar town.

Several former Bell officials wearing their proper uniform.

Several former Bell officials wearing their proper uniform.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/21/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Bello, city, poverty, corruption, scandal, officials, taxes


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Five city officials from Bell, California, including a former mayor, were convicted Wednesday of misappropriating city funds to pay their inflated salaries. The officials were paying themselves more than $100,000 per year and illegally raising taxes to do it.

The city has just 36,000 residents and a quarter of them live below the poverty line. Most residents are blue-collar workers.

An audit conducted by the state controller's office discovered the city officials had illegally raised property taxes, business license fees, and other taxes to raise revenue to cover their extravagant salaries. The state ordered that the money be repaid.

The defendants in the case were appointed to the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority, which raised eyebrows because the agency appeared to have no purpose other than to pay the former officials a salary.

The agency only met once, and approves an annual pay increase of $13,000 for themselves.

Only one official on trial, Luis Artiga, was acquitted of all charges. Others, including former mayor Oscar Hernandez, Theresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, George Cole and Victor Belo were convicted of multiple charges.

Artiga did not participate in any of the corruption and was never present during any of the meetings.

A lawyer for former mayor Oscar Hernandez had the audacity to claim his client was functionally illiterate, saying he was uneducated and not the sort of "scholar" who understood city finances.

The astounding claim did not save him from conviction.

One of the people not on trial, but dealt with previously, was former councilman Robert Rizzo. Rizzo paid himself $1.5 million per year including a salary of $800,000, which is more than double what the President of the United States earns.

Rizzo looted the city treasury of $5.5 million.

The most recent defendants tried to claim that Rizzo fooled them into believing they too deserved large salaries.

It is unknown what the sentences for the former officials will be, but it is expected they will all face prison.

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