Rizzo back in court; pleads ‘not guilty’ to fraud charges

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Irfan Khan-Pool/Getty Images

Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo during a preliminary hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court on Feb. 22, 2011 in Los Angeles.

The man prosecutors say led a scam to bilk millions of dollars from the city of Bell - former city administrator Robert Rizzo - was arraigned in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday. Rizzo and three other former city leaders pleaded "not guilty" to numerous fraud charges.

Rizzo faces the bulk of criminal counts. They include misappropriation of public funds, falsification of records and conflict of interest.

Rizzo entered a not guilty plea. So did his former assistant manager Angela Spaccia; former Bell city Mayor Oscar Hernandez, who voters recently recalled; and Luis Artiga, who quit the city council last year.

Outside the courtroom, Rizzo’s attorney James Spertus said a judge will hold a hearing in early May to review some preliminary matters.

“The issues that will be coming up... our need to restructure the cases so that there’s more logical separation between the defendants in the case and that will all unfold over the coming months," said Spertus. "And the grand jury’s charges when... the prosecutors very publicly stated that there will be new charges brought by a grand jury... so hopefully those will materialize before May 3.”

Prosecutors have dropped one criminal charge against Rizzo for misappropriation of public funds. They added several more counts against Spaccia related to excessive compensation and conflict of interest.

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