Bell City corruption case continues at Los Angeles County Superior Court

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The preliminary hearing in the Bell City corruption case resumed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Some current and former officials are accused of stealing money and creating fake government agencies to collect salaries for doing nothing.

Former City Manager Robert Rizzo will stand trial separately, along with former Assistant Manager Angela Spaccia. The accused are being referred to as the Bell Eight. The only councilmember not charged with a crime testified Tuesday against his former colleagues.

Bell City Councilman Lorenzo Velez took the stand Tuesday in what is being called the largest case of public corruption in California. Velez testified that Rizzo ran the city and required authorization for nearly everything the council did. In his testimony, Velez said he had no idea what his colleagues were earning until he read about it in the Los Angeles Times. The article showed the accused council members were making nearly $100,000 a year for part-time work.

Velez testified that he only made about $600 a month. He also said they created commissions and collected money for serving on them despite not actually doing any work. Prosecutor Edward Miller referred to Bell’s Solid Waste authority as a “solid waste of money.” The prosecution asked Velez about a closed-door session where he questioned the other council members about their salaries. Judge Henry J. Hall stopped that line saying, “I don’t want to unlock any doors that should not be unlocked.”

The defense contends that Velez knew much more than he admits and will attempt to undermine his testimony on Thursday. All defendants are out on bail except for Victor Bello who sat in the courtroom handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit. The defendants turned down a plea bargain Monday that would have put them in prison for two years along with paying restitution.

Testimony in the preliminary hearing is expected to last through Thursday. Judge Hall will then decide if there is enough evidence to try the six defendants.