California – Los Angeles – Corruption without restraint.

September 23, 2010

These people are a ring of thieves.

How is it that they were not discovered sooner?

Looks like there are probably others who have been covering up for them and it’s probably more extensive than just this small band of thieves.

Prosecutors detail steps Bell leaders allegedly took to hide high salaries:

Court documents accuse former City Administrator Robert Rizzo of ordering an employee to draft false contracts and other records to conceal how much he and council members made

By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times

September 23, 2010

Los Angeles County prosecutors, in records obtained Wednesday by The Times, lay out in the most detail yet the lengths to which they allege former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo went to hide extravagant salaries for himself and other city officials.

The court documents accuse Rizzo of directing an employee to draft false contracts and other records in September 2008 that concealed how much he and council members made. Then a few months ago, under growing scrutiny of his salary, the city manager asked a subordinate to obtain Mayor Oscar Hernandez’s signature on some of those 2008 contracts, the court filing says. The subordinate pointed out that another council member had been the mayor in 2008.

“Rizzo directed the subordinate to obtain Oscar Hernandez’s signature anyway because Hernandez would be willing to sign,” the documents say. “The subordinate did so.”

The allegations were made in court documents asking a judge to prevent Rizzo and seven other current and former city leaders charged this week from using money improperly taken from Bell to bail themselves out of jail.

Former and current Bell officials, from left, Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and Oscar Hernandez appear in Superior Court on Wednesday. Documents outline the steps they allegedly took to conceal high pay. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / September 22, 2010)

Former and current Bell officials, from left, Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and Oscar Hernandez appear in Superior Court on Wednesday. Documents outline the steps they allegedly took to conceal high pay. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / September 22, 2010)

Rizzo’s attorney, James W. Spertus, did not return a call seeking comment on the allegations. But he has repeatedly said that his client is innocent.

The prosecution documents allege that Rizzo used the false 2008 contracts in response to questions about his salary. He allegedly told one citizen who asked whether he was really making $400,000, “If I can make that kind of money, I wouldn’t be working here.”

Prosecutors accused Rizzo of continuing to use the false contracts in recent months amid growing scrutiny of his salary by the district attorney’s office and others.

Sometime after June, one of the false 2008 contracts was given to the city attorney following requests for records of Rizzo’s pay. The contract listed Rizzo’s salary as $221,460. In reality, Rizzo was on course to make more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits this year.

As recently as last week, Rizzo pointed to the contracts in response to questions from the state attorney general’s office and falsely claimed they were genuine and were approved by the City Council, the court documents allege.

“By continuing to maintain the fiction that the documents purporting to be September 2008 contracts are genuine, Mr. Rizzo continues to retain public funds feloniously obtained,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman wrote in one of the court documents.

As The Times reported earlier this month, prosecutors said that the contracts were never approved by the council. In addition, Huntsman alleged that Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia’s computer was used in 2005 to generate a contract that gave her large raises without council approval.

“A substantial portion of her compensation from the City of Bell appears to have been obtained feloniously,” Hunstman wrote.

Spaccia was charged this week with misappropriating public funds, but she was not charged in connection with the alleged 2005 contract.

The court documents also say Rizzo directed an employee to draft a memo in 2008 that listed council member pay as about $8,000 a year. In reality, council members were making far more — nearly $100,000 earlier this year.

Rizzo, 56, is charged with 53 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds, falsification of public documents and conflicts of interest. If convicted, he faces up to 58 years in state prison.

The other Bell defendants are charged with misappropriating public funds. All eight are expected to enter pleas Oct. 21.

Wearing brown jail scrubs and shackled to a waist chain, Rizzo appeared in court Wednesday alongside the seven other defendants. He rocked gently back and forth in his chair as his attorney argued that his bail should be reduced.

“He has been here for 30 years,” Spertus said in court. “There is nowhere to run…. Everybody knows his face.”

Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor reduced Rizzo’s bail from $3.2 million to $2 million, but declined to significantly change the bail amounts for the other defendants.

“The charged offenses are, in my opinion, extremely serious,” Pastor said.

Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo was released on $260,000 bail, and Councilman Luis Artiga was released on $120,000 bail. Former Councilman George Cole was expected to be released late Wednesday. Rizzo, Spaccia, Hernandez and Councilman George Mirabal and former Councilman Victor Bello remained behind bars late Wednesday.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bell-arraign-20100923,0,4504683.story

 Southern Calfornia city manager who is facing 53 counts related to alleged corruption has a local connection -- he owns a local horse ranch and has raced his thoroughbreds at Emerald Downs.

Southern Calfornia city manager who is facing 53 counts related to alleged corruption has a local connection -- he owns a local horse ranch and has raced his thoroughbreds at Emerald Downs.

Bell, Calif., city manager owns Auburn horse ranch:

AUBURN, Wash.—The Bell, Calif., city manager charged with misappropriating public funds owns a horse ranch at Auburn and raced thoroughbreds at the Emerald Downs track in the Seattle suburb.

The Los Angeles Times reported Robert Rizzo bought the 10-acre ranch in 2004 for nearly $1 million and has owned dozens of race horses.

Auburn neighbors say Rizzo has been a good neighbor, and fellow horse owners and trainers at Emerald Downs were shocked and surprised by the allegations in California.

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_16152770?nclick_check=1

<via http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2010/sep/corruption-scandal-wipes-out-citys-govt>

Bail for each is:

  • $3.2 million for Rizzo, 56
  • $377,500 for Spaccia, 52
  • $285,000 for Hernandez, 63
  • $260,000 for Jacobo, 52
  • $260,000 for Mirabal, 60
  • $190,000 for Bello, 51
  • $145,000 for Artiga, 49
  • $130,000 for Cole, 60

http://da.co.la.ca.us/mr/092110a.htm


Mexico City – “El Grande,” Captured without a shot

September 13, 2010

Interesting.

A huge king pin captured?  Without a shot?

He WANTED to be captured.  There are worse enemies out there.  He is looking for personal protection.

Mexico: drug capos now surrendering without fight:

Mexico Drug War

In this photo released by Mexico's Navy, Navy marines arrest alleged drug kingpin Sergio Villarreal Barragan, alias "El Grande," center, in Puebla, Mexico, Sunday Sept. 12, 2010. Mexican marines captured Villarreal, a presumed leader of the embattled Beltran Leyva cartel who appears on a list of the country's most-wanted fugitives, in a raid Sunday, the government sa...

BY MARK STEVENSON

Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s capture of two rival drug gang leaders in two weeks may mark a new trend in the country’s drug war, an official said Monday: drug lords surrendering without a fight when surrounded.

Mexico Drug War

Marines escort alleged drug kingpin Sergio Villarreal Barragan, aka "El Grande," center, during his presentation to the press in Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Villarreal, an alleged leader of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, was captured in a raid Sunday, according to a statement released by the Mexican Na.

Drug lords – once notorious for dying in a blaze of bullets – have started surrendering, said Navy spokesman Rear Adm. Jose Luis Vergara. The capture of the rivals also may help allay suspicions that the government hits one gang while leaving its rivals alone.

“The criminals are no longer putting up resistance” when surrounded, Vergara said, referring to Sunday’s arrest of Sergio Villarreal Barragan, a leader of the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel.

Villarreal was taken by about 30 Mexican marines without a shot fired in a raid at a house in the central state of Puebla on Sunday. That came a little over two weeks after the Aug. 30 arrest of his rival, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a U.S.-born trafficker known as “La Barbie,” who also gave up when stopped by police.

“I think it is a sensible attitude on their part not to resist,” Vergara said, referring to two previous capos – Arturo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel – who died while trying to fight off marines and soldiers.

Mexico Drug War

Alleged drug kingpin Sergio Villarreal Barragan, aka "El Grande", center, looks on during his presentation to the press in Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Villarreal, an alleged leader of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, was captured in a raid Sunday, according to a statement released by the Mexican Na.

“I think the case of ‘Nacho’ Coronel was a watershed. I think that the drug gangs now know very well the federal government has the superior force needed to arrest them, and that is why they are not putting up resistance,” Vergara said at a news conference in which Villarreal Barragan was presented before the cameras.

The unsmiling Villarreal Barragan towered over marines flanking him, living up to his nickname “El Grande,” or “the Big One.” Vergara said he was also known “King Kong” and “The Child Eater,” for reasons that are not clear.

He appears on an Attorney General’s Office list of Mexico’s most-wanted drug traffickers, with a reward of just over $2 million, and he faces at least seven formal investigations into alleged drug trafficking and organized crime. He is considered the second-in-command to Hector Beltran Leyva, who leads the cartel following the death of his brother Arturo.

Villarreal Barragan and Valdez Villarreal – who are not related – were bitter enemies, whose dispute led to bloodshed across the southern state of Morelos and Guerrero as they fought for territory.

<

Mexico – Edgar Valdez-Villarreal – Captured – American born

>

In April, a policeman and five other people – including a mother and her 8-year-old child – were killed in the crossfire of a shootout between the two gangs on the main boulevard of the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco. And last week, authorities discovered 13 bodies in a clandestine grave in Morelos state, believed to be victims of the feud.

While the federal anti-drug offensive launched in late 2006 has hit all of the major cartels, suspicions have long lingered that the government may be hitting some gangs harder than others, either because a single dominant cartel might cause less violence than two warring ones, or that some officials protected specific gangs.

But seldom have leaders of two rival drug gangs been arrested with days of one another.

“The timing is very close,” said former top chief anti-drug prosecutor Samuel Gonzalez. But Gonzalez stressed that, while the two were rivals, “they come from the same lineage” in the Beltran Leyva cartel.

Mexico Drug War

Marines escort alleged drug kingpin Sergio Villarreal Barragan, aka "El Grande," center, during his presentation to the press in Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Villarreal, an alleged leader of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, was captured in a raid Sunday, according to a statement released by the Mexican Na.

Valdez Villarreal split from the cartel following its leader’s death, and officials said he had supplied important information after his arrest, but Vergara said that Villarreal Barragan’s arrest was due to a 10-month investigation – with no relation to the detention of his rival.

Both factions are now “very weakened,” Vergara said.

But other cartels – like the Zetas gang or the La Familia cartel – could be poised to move in on the territory the two arrested capos were fighting over. Vergara said the territory stretches from Mexico City to the Pacific coast, along with some northern enclaves.

Nor are the cartels likely to give up while they still have weaponry and room to move. On Sunday, federal police reported they had found 90 hand grenades, 29 rifles and about 58,000 rounds of ammunition at a a suspected drug cartel safe house in the northern Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas.

More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched the offensive against drug cartels soon after taking office in 2006.

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/09/12/2462112/mexican-marines-arrest-presumed.html#article_photos#ixzz0zSnErLNV


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