Disgraced former city manager gets prison

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm •  Published: April 14, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The disgraced former city manager who became the face of a multimillion dollar corruption scandal in the small Los Angeles suburb of Bell was sentenced in federal court Monday to 33 months in prison for income tax evasion.

Robert Rizzo, 60, pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy and filing a false federal income tax return.

Rizzo also has pleaded no contest to 69 counts of fraud, misappropriation of public funds, falsification of public records and other charges. He is due to be sentenced in state court on those charges Wednesday and faces 12 years in prison.

U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said Rizzo also was ordered to repay nearly $256,000 in back taxes and serve his federal sentence consecutively with his state punishment.

Rizzo acknowledged creating a corporation to claim more than $700,000 in phony financial losses to reduce his tax liability on the $1.5 million salary and benefits package he was receiving as city manager. Prosecutors said $120,000 of those supposed losses was money he spent remodeling his Huntington Beach home.

Federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo that Rizzo "abused his position to fleece the city of Bell of hundreds of thousands of dollars that he paid to himself in excessive salary — monies that could have been spent for the benefit of the people he served."

The statement continued, "in an extraordinary display of greed, defendant also found it necessary to cheat the IRS."

Rizzo hasn't commented. Defense attorney James Spertus said Monday that his client, "did wrong, and he's accepting responsibility."

Rizzo and other top Bell officials were arrested in 2010 after it was discovered they were illegally diverting millions of taxpayer dollars to pay themselves huge salaries.

Prosecutors said the scam cost Bell more than $5.5 million and drove a city where more than a quarter of the residents live below the federal poverty line to the brink of bankruptcy.

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