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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Former Bell City Councilman George Mirabal was sentenced today to five years probation, one year in jail and 1,000 hours of community service for bilking the working-class municipality's taxpayers through an inflated salary he received for serving on boards that rarely met.
Mirabal, 64, is the first of five former Bell council members convicted in the corruption scandal to be sentenced.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy suspended a four-year prison term against Mirabal, who will not have to serve any of that time as long as he successfully completes the terms of his probation.
Mirabal, who also must pay $242,293 in restitution, is scheduled to begin serving his jail term July 25. He was credited with about 80 days -- for jail time already served and good-behavior credit.
Mirabal and four other city council members pleaded no contest April 9 to two felony counts each of misappropriation of public funds in a plea deal to resolve the remaining corruption charges against them.
Mirabal, former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo were each convicted in March 2013 of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five others. Former Councilman George Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others, while former Councilman Victor Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.
Jurors deadlocked on a handful of counts against the five, with the prosecution announcing in May 2013 that it intended to retry those charges. The plea deals reached earlier this year resolved the remaining counts, eliminating the need for another trial.
Jurors exonerated former Councilman Luis Artiga of all 12 charges against him.
In a sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett has asked Kennedy to impose the maximum four-year prison term against Mirabal, writing that the court ``would be hard-pressed to find a more egregious case of public corruption.''
``Defendant Mirabal's illegal $100,000 a year salary was a drastic departure from the expected pay of an honest council member whose sole goal is public service, a goal that appears to have never been shared by defendant Mirabal and his co-defendants,'' Hassett wrote in the sentencing memorandum.
``Given his history of nearly 20 years as a council member, city clerk and mayor of Bell, defendant Mirabal was aware of his obligations as a fiduciary for the city, but instead acted in his own self-interest to the detriment of the people of Bell.''
In his sentencing memorandum, defense attorney Alex R. Kessel asked the judge to sentence Mirabal to probation and community service.
``The conduct involved in the instant matter is clearly an aberration from defendant Mirabal's otherwise exemplary conduct as a public servant, as a council member for the city of Bell and the tremendous and long-term community service he has provided to the city of Bell, and other adjoining cities throughout his career as a council member and community activist,'' Kessel wrote.
Mirabal's attorney noted that his client ``has and will continue to suffer greatly as a result of these offenses, including personal financial devastation, lifetime exclusion (from) public office, embarrassment to family and other community leaders and his own personal dismay resulting from his failure to affirmatively question the legitimacy of the instant salaries.''
Hernandez, Jacobo, Bello and Cole -- who are also facing a term between probation and four years in prison -- are set to be sentenced within the next month.
Kennedy noted earlier this year that they would be precluded from running for public office again.
During the trial, prosecutors contended that the five were paid illegal salaries for sitting on four city boards that rarely met, with their salaries reaching $100,000 in a city of 2 1/2 square miles where the median household income was $35,000.
Defense attorneys countered during the trial that their clients were wrongly accused, arguing that they worked diligently for the city and earned their salaries.
The five were charged in September 2010 along with former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia in what then-District Attorney Steve Cooley said was ``corruption on steroids.''
Rizzo pleaded no contest last October to all 69 charges against him and was sentenced April 17 to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution.
Spaccia was convicted last December of 11 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. Jurors acquitted her of one count of secretion of a public record involving former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams' employment contract, and deadlocked on another count -- misappropriation of public funds involving an alleged $75,500 loan of taxpayer money in 2003 -- that was eventually dismissed.
She was sentenced in April to 11 years and eight months in state prison and ordered to pay more than $8 million in restitution. Spaccia is appealing her conviction.