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Current and former Bell, California, officials face court hearing

By Michael Martinez, CNN
  • Four current and two former members of the Bell, California, City Council go to court
  • Prosecutors must prove they have enough evidence to bind the six people over for trial
  • The six are accused of misappropriating $1.2 million in public funds
  • Two more former city officials will have their preliminary hearing at a later date

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Four current and two former members of the scandal-ridden Bell, California, City Council appeared in court Monday for a preliminary hearing on whether prosecutors have enough evidence to bind them over for trial, a prosecutor said.

The hearing is expected to last days, officials said.

Jennifer Lentz Snyder, a prosecutor in the case who is also the assistant head deputy of the public integrity division, told CNN that testimony began Monday.

In October, eight current or former officials pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The other two officials are the former city manager and his assistant.

Prosecutors accuse the eight of misappropriating more than $5.5 million, including being paid for phantom committee meetings and making illegal personal loans.

Prosecutors allege those in this week's hearing misappropriated about $1.2 million in public funds and illegally gamed the system to receive exorbitant salaries for doing no work. They face nearly two dozen counts, prosecutors said.

The six are Mayor Oscar Hernandez, City Council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal and former council members Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello, prosecutors said.

Between 2006 and 2010, the council members were paid nearly $8,000 a month for meetings on four boards that never took place or lasted just a few minutes, prosecutors allege.

Former City Manager Robert Rizzo is facing 55 counts of corruption charges, including that he allegedly gave nearly $1.9 million in unauthorized loans to himself, former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, Hernandez, Artiga and dozens of others, prosecutors said.