Former CA City Manager Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption and Tax Charges

By - December 13, 2013
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MAYorThe ex-city manager for Bell, California pleaded guilty this week to federal conspiracy and tax crimes, according to federal prosecutors yesterday.

Robert Rizzo came to personify corruption in Bell when it was shown three years ago that he was taking home an $800,000 salary. He faces up to eight years in prison.

Rizzo, who is 59, admitted that he made up a corporation to claim losses on his tax return. This allowed him to greatly reduce his tax liability from his job in Bell.

Rizzo pleaded guilty to two federal charges: conspiracy and filing a false federal income tax return. Rizzo was assisted by his tax preparer, who pleaded guilty last month to aiding and abetting the filing of a false tax return.

In the plea agreement reached yesterday, Rizzo admitted that he used his corporation to finance over $80,000 in personal expenses in 09 and $120,000 in 2010, both in construction work.

A representative for the IRS Criminal Division stated that going after public servants who try to go around tax laws to fund an extravagant lifestyle is a top priority. The fraud cost the government over $300,000 over four years. Rizzo is going to file amended tax returns for those years and pay more in tax and penalties.

The plea comes from Rizzo over two months after he pleaded no contest to California state charges that included perjury and the misappropriation of public funds. This was just a week before jury selection was going to being in the public corruption trial.

His lawyer says that Rizzo decided to take responsibility for what he did and he wants to save the state and the federal government the cost of an expensive trial during a time when courts have limited financial resources.

This case was called the biggest public corruption case ever in the Bell area. The district attorney on the case said that Rizzo was committing grand theft by paycheck.

Also found guilty in this case in a separate trial was Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, who was found guilty of 11 federal charges, including misappropriating funds, faking government records and conflict of interest. She was accused of hiding public documents that involved the police chief’s contact as well.

Spaccia could face as much as 17 years in prison, but it is likely that she will get a lighter sentence. The district attorney on the Spaccia case said this was a big victory for Bell, because the town was cheated out of six million dollars.

She ended up being tried alone after Rizzo pleaded no contest in the case mentioned above, which involved 69 corruption charges. Spaccia made $564,000 in salary and other wages. Rizzo was making over $1.2 million a year.