Attorneys pick apart Rizzo’s business dealings in Bell

Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo listens to proceedings during his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo listens to proceedings during his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 in Los Angeles Superior Court. Irfan Khan/AFP/Getty Images

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge could rule Wednesday on whether former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo will stand trial on two more criminal charges.

The judge in the case has already ordered Rizzo to stand trial on more than 50 public corruption counts. Prosecutors are trying to add two more: conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds.

They accuse Rizzo of steering city money to firms that former Bell planning director Dennis Tarango owned. Attorneys argue that Tarango funneled those funds back into a horse-racing business the two ran together.

Tarango testified that his partnership with Rizzo began when he asked the city administrator how to keep tax costs down. He said Rizzo suggested buying racehorses. The two later formed Golden Aggie Ranch, Inc. As shareholders, they could report gains or losses on their own income tax returns instead of paying federal taxes.

Tarango and Rizzo’s partnership lasted several years but after it dissolved, prosecutors say Rizzo directed $3 million in contracts to Tarango’s planning firms.

Rizzo’s defense attorney said the witness made it clear – his client did not mix horse play with city business.

The city of Bell has paid at least $10 million to Tarango’s companies since the mid-1990s.

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