Ex-Bell Official Pleads Guilty to Two Felonies

     (CN) – A former top administrator involved in the Bell, Calif., corruption scandal agreed to plead guilty Thursday to conspiracy and filing a false federal income tax return.
     Robert A. Rizzo, 59, admitted to the two felony charges for defrauding the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, prosecutors said in a press release.
     Bell, one of Los Angeles’ poorest cities with a population of 36,500, came to represent the height of government corruption when it was revealed that its six highest-paid administrators were paid combined annual salaries of $6 million.
     Rizzo had a $787,500 base salary in 2010, but pulled in more than $1.1 million after cashing in his unused vacation days and sick leave.
     Prosecutors say Rizzo created a corporation to fraudulently deduct more than $400,000 in losses on his income tax returns for 2006 through 2009, allowing him to reduce his tax liability on the hefty salary he received.
     His tax preparer, Robert J. Melcher, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the filing of a false tax return, according to prosecutors.
     As part of the plea deal, Rizzo agreed to file amended tax returns that accurately report all income and expenses, and to all additional taxes and penalties.
     If convicted once he enters his plea, Rizzo faces up to eight years in federal prison.

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