Bell officials ordered to stand trial

March 10, 2011 at 9:41 PM

LOS ANGELES, March 10 (UPI) -- Four former Bell, Calif., officials were ordered Thursday to stand trial for receiving paychecks a judge called illegal.

Robert Rizzo, who served as city manager and allegedly orchestrated the scheme, faces 51 counts, KABC-TV, Los Angeles, reported. The other defendants are Rizzo's assistant, Angela Spaccia, Oscar Hernandez, who was recalled as mayor in a vote this week, and former Councilman Luis Artiga, who resigned before the recall vote.

Prosecutors began an investigation of the Los Angeles suburb last year after the Los Angeles Times reported Bell officials had remarkably high salaries. Rizzo's annual pay was close to $790,000 a year, twice that of the U.S. president, and benefits lifted it to $1.5 million.

Bell, with a population of less than 40,000, was paying some of its officials more than their counterparts in Los Angeles or Chicago.

Judge Henry Hall, ruling prosecutors showed evidence of criminal wrongdoing, called the official paychecks "scheme salaries" as well as "bloated and clearly illegal payments."

Hall scheduled arraignments for March 24.

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