Trial Against Six Bell Officials Begins Today - FOX 35 News Orlando

Trial Against Six Bell Officials Begins Today

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A jury was sworn in today to hear the criminal case against the former mayor of Bell and five ex-City Council members, all of whom are charged with misappropriating public funds by collecting exorbitant salaries.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy ordered the 12 jurors - along with six alternates -- to return to court Thursday morning for opening statements in the trial of former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello.

The defendants are each facing multiple counts -- some as many as 20 -- of misappropriating city funds through their work on various city agencies, including the Community Housing Authority, Public Financing Authority and Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.

The prosecution contends that the defendants paid themselves thousands of dollars for attending meetings that sometimes lasted only a matter of minutes, adding up to annual pay of nearly $100,000 in a city of roughly 35,000 residents.

Defense attorneys contend the former mayor and council members spent significant time working on city issues

Cole's attorney has said his client plans to testify in his own defense during the trial.

Former City Administrator Robert Rizzo and his then-assistant, Angela Spaccia, are awaiting trial in a separate corruption case. More than 50 counts of fraud have been filed against against Rizzo, seen as the ringleader of the alleged effort to loot the city's treasury by paying bloated salaries to himself and other officials and arranging illicit loans of taxpayer money.

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