Photo Credit: Getty
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Former Bell Councilman Victor Bello was sentenced today to five years' probation, a year in jail and has been ordered to pay more than $177,000 in restitution for misappropriating public funds by accepting money for serving on various city boards that rarely met.
The 55-year-old Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.
In addition he and four other former council members 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 has served.
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.
In the prosecution's sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett wrote that Bello, who had served on the city council for nearly 11 years, ``stole from the poor to give to himself.''
``... Defendant Bello and his co-defendants created sham boards, where they allegedly delegated additional duties to themselves. In exchange for agreeing to perform these alleged `new' duties, delegated to themselves by themselves, they demanded additional compensation. This was a particularly clever and deceitful scheme,'' the prosecutor wrote.
Defense attorney Leo J. Moriarty 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.
During the trial, prosecutors contended that the council members were paid illegal salaries for sitting on four city boards that rarely met, with their salaries reaching $100,000 in a city that was 2 1/2 square miles and where the median household income was $35,000.
Defense attorneys countered during the trial that their clients were wrongly accused, arguing that they worked diligently for the city and earned their salaries.
One former councilman, Luis Artiga, was exonerated of all 12 charges against him.
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.
Spaccia was sentenced in April to 11 years and eight months in state prison and was ordered to pay more than $8 million in restitution. She is appealing her conviction.