A total of eight former Bell leaders stand accused of looting the city out of millions of dollars by collecting exorbitant salaries and taking illegal loans.
This includes Bell's former mayor, Oscar Hernandez, as well as ex-council member Luis Artega. Both men were charged with misappropriation of funds because each had individually accepted loans from the city, but the judge ruled there’s no evidence that either defendant knew the loans were improper when they accepted them.
Hernandez and Ortega still face other charges, but their lawyers claim this is the beginning of the end of the criminal case.
At the same time, the judge refused to drop any charges against Robert Rizzo, the former city administrator. Rizzo ran the loan program.
The judge says that evidence has suggested Rizzo set his own financial terms and illegally ignored the City Council, which is supposed to approve those loans.
All eight defendants will be back in court on April 25.