Ex-city official in California sentenced to one year in jail in corruption case

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 11, 2014 5:08 PM

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former elected official from the scandal-plagued California city of Bell was sentenced on Friday to one year in jail for inflating his salary by sitting on bogus boards, prosecutors said.

George Mirabal is the first of five former city council members from Bell, a working class municipality of about 35,000 residents near Los Angeles, to be sentenced in the case.

The five ex-officials were convicted last year of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five other counts of the same charge. They admitted earning up to $100,000 a year each for sitting on various municipal boards that rarely met to conduct business.

The case stemmed from a scandal that began with revelations in 2010 that the Bell city manager, Robert Rizzo, was paid a salary of $787,000 - or nearly twice that of President Barack Obama. The episode fueled a statewide debate over public pay.

Rizzo, who pleaded guilty last year to 69 California criminal counts - from perjury to misappropriation of public funds - was sentenced in April to 12 years in state prison. He is currently serving a 33-month federal prison sentence over a tax-fraud scheme.

In Mirabal's case, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sentenced him on Friday to one year in jail and five years of probation, said Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

He also was ordered to pay over $242,000 in restitution, Risling said.

His four former colleagues on the Bell City Council are each scheduled to be sentenced within the next three weeks, Risling said. Prosecutors are seeking sentences of four years each for them, as they had sought in the case of Mirabal, he said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Beech)