Tag Archives: federal prison

Bell corruption figure Rizzo gets prison term in tax-evasion case

Former Bell chief administrator Robert Rizzo, the central figure in a corruption probe that enveloped more than a half-dozen leaders from the small city, was sentenced today to 33 months in federal prison for tax evasion.

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Former Bell city administrator Robert Rizzo listens during closing arguments by his attorney James Spertusa at a preliminary hearing in the Bell case. FILE: IRFAN KHAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. District Judge George H. King ordered that the sentence be served consecutively – or on top of – whatever sentence Rizzo receives later this week when he is sentenced on 69 corruption counts in Los Angeles Superior Court. Rizzo, who formerly owned a home in Huntington Beach, faces 10 to 12 years in prison in that case, with sentencing set for Wednesday.

Rizzo’s plea to corruption counts in Superior Court had indicated that his state sentence would run concurrently – or at the same time – as the federal sentence.

King also ordered Rizzo to pay nearly $256,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. The judge also recommended, but did not order, that Rizzo undergo mental health counseling while in prison.

Rizzo, who was paying himself as much as $1.1 million as Bell’s top administrator, pleaded guilty in January to federal counts of conspiracy and filing a false federal income tax return.

Federal prosecutors said that from 2005 through 2010, the year he was fired from his job as Bell’s city manager, Rizzo, 60, claimed more than $770,000 in phantom losses on his tax returns, further inflating take-home pay that had reached $1.18 million a year.

The phony losses “operated to substantially offset the increasing wages defendant received from his employment with the city of Bell,” according to Rizzo’s plea agreement.

Rizzo, who was not immediately taken into custody, declined to make any comment during his sentencing hearing.

Federal prosecutors wrote in court papers that Rizzo’s conduct as Bell’s chief administrator “can only be described as corrupt.”

“Defendant abused his position to fleece the city of Bell of hundreds of thousands of dollars that he paid to himself in excessive salary – monies that could have been spent for the benefit of the people he served,” prosecutors wrote. “But not satisfied with betraying the trust placed in him by the city and its residents, in an extraordinary display of greed, defendant also found it necessary to cheat the IRS.”

Angela Spaccia, Rizzo’s second-in-command in Bell, was convicted of 11 counts of corruption in Superior Court and sentenced to almost 12 years in state prison last week. She has not been charged federally. However, she is referred to in Rizzo’s federal court documents as “A.S.,’ along with her company, Sheffield Management Corp.

Rizzo’s plea agreement says the two of them cost the IRS more than $300,000.

The accountant in the scheme, Robert J. Melcher of Calabasas, pleaded guilty last year to aiding and abetting the filing of a false tax return. He is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court later this year.

Five ex-Bell City Council members were found guilty last year in Superior Court on felony counts of misappropriating public funds through exorbitant salaries.

They accepted plea deals last week in which they pleaded no contest to two felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. They are facing sentences that could range from probation to four years in state prison.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.


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Con man’s latest crime: forging judge’s signature

orange county bail bondsFor most of his adult life, Gerald McComber has been either committing fraud or serving prison time for it – and sometimes both.

His record includes 14 felony fraud convictions. A probation officer wrote in a report that since 1989, the longtime Orange County resident “has repeatedly committed serious financial crimes unabated except for periods of his incarceration.”

But last year, McComber picked perhaps his most audacious target yet: He forged a federal judge’s signature.

On Monday, a different judge sentenced him to 10 months in federal prison.

McComber, 58, pleaded guilty in January to forgery. Gray-haired and balding with a mustache, he appeared in court wearing a white inmate jumpsuit and walking slowly with a cane.

“Your honor, I’m just disappointed in myself,” he said, speaking softly from a lectern.

McComber said he had lost his job and simply wanted another one. His lawyer has said he forged the signature to try to clear a tax lien that was a blemish on his credit report.

“It was a stressed position. I made a poor error, and I’m sorry for it,” McComber said.

Since the judge McComber impersonated sits in Orange County, the case was heard in Los Angeles to avoid a possible conflict of interest.

In February 2013, McComber applied for a job selling life insurance for One America Services. He was offered a contract position contingent on a background check.

When a check of his credit report showed an outstanding tax lien, company official Mark Anderson called McComber to ask about it. McComber said it had been taken care of and he would send proof.

Shortly, a faxed letter arrived on Anderson’s desk, purportedly written months before to McComber, then living in Rancho Santa Margarita.

“As of the date referenced above, the Tax Lien #0508725R has been released from your name, and the amounts in question have been satisfied completely,” the letter began. “There are no outstanding fees or penalties due, and your record has been cleared of any restrictions or liens.”

Below a signature, it said: “Alice Marie Stotler, US District Judge.”

Suspicious, another company official sent the letter to the Santa Ana office of Alicemarie H. Stotler, a real judge who’s been on the federal bench since 1984.

McComber knew of Stotler, since she once sentenced him to prison for filing a falsetax refund claim. But he still didn’t spell her name right.

Like any other citizen, the judge reported the crime. When FBI agents confronted McComber, “he was cooperative and made a full confession,” his lawyer wrote.

He could have faced up to five years, but his lawyer and the prosecutor agreed to the 10-month sentence.

“You are a 58-year-old man who made what can only be characterized as a huge mistake to sign the name of a United States District Court judge,” Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell told McComber. “But it was to be gainfully employed, which is in your favor.”

But the fraud was futile. Even if the faked letter from the judge had fooled everyone, McComber never would have gotten the job. According to a court filing, a company official told the FBI he quickly discovered McComber’s long criminal record, which he hadn’t disclosed when he applied.

Because he turned himself in in September, McComber should be released from prison in July. He’ll be on supervised release for one year.

A probation report found “prior terms of supervision have proven ineffective in every instance from deterring (defendant) from engaging in criminal conduct.”

McComber even managed to commit crime while he was in prison. In 1997, he admitted filing a false tax refund claim while serving a five-year federal prison term for securities fraud. Stotler gave him another 33 months and ordered him to pay back $82,705.

His lawyer told the Los Angeles Times in 1997 that McComber only committed the crime to provide for his ex-wife and young daughter.

The earliest fraud on record dates to 1985, when McComber forged his wife’s signature on a deed to finance a real estate venture, a scam that ended with her losing her home in Anaheim Hills, according to a lawsuit she later filed and won.

Nearly 30 years after that forgery, as deputy U.S. marshals prepared to take McComber from the courtroom, O’Connell told him, “Good luck to you, Mr. McComber. Stay out of trouble now.”

He replied, “Yes, your honor. Thank you.”



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.


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Former Costa Mesa man gets prison sentence for tax fraud

SANTA ANA – A former Costa Mesa resident was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison Monday for filing fraudulent tax returns on behalf of clients seeking large refunds from the government.

Ronald Vernon Strawn, 69, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. Strawn was ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution to the IRS and spend a year on supervised release following his prison term.

In July 2013, Strawn pleaded guilty to three counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns, according to IRS officials.

Strawn filed federal income tax returns in 2005 and 2006 on behalf of clients which listed false business losses, reducing taxable income by as much as $201,500 per return.

Strawn has remained in federal custody since his arrest in Arizona in April of 2012.




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Newport Beach man sentenced on federal fraud charges

A former Newport Beach investment adviser and two other men were sentenced Tuesday for a fraudulent investment scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

William Ferry, 71, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after he was convicted July 31, 2012, of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. Dennis Clinton, 65, of San Diego, and Paul Martin, 64, a resident of New Jersey, were sentenced to 30 months in prison for mail and wire fraud and conspiracy.

Authorities said the three men attempted to defraud an investor of $1 billion through a high-yield investment scheme. Unbeknownst to them, the target was actually a member of an undercover FBI team.

According to the Department of Justice, the men promised undercover federal agents an extremely high rate of return at little or no risk to principal through their “Fed Trade Program,” which they said was regulated by a Federal Reserve bank.

They told the potential investors that the program helped humanitarian projects and that the promised profits would be divided in equal amounts among the humanitarian cause, program financing and the investors.

FBI officials are continuing to investigate the case, the Department of Justice said.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.


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Former L.A. neighborhood commissioner faces child porn charges

A former president of Los Angeles’ Board of Neighborhood Commissioners surrendered Wednesday to federal agents after he was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly possessing and distributing child pornography, federal prosecutors said.

Albert Noah Abrams, 63, of Tarzana was named Tuesday in an eight-count indictment that includes five counts of distributing child pornography, two counts of receiving child pornography and another count of possessing child pornography.

Investigators using a peer-to-peer sharing network were able to download more than 150 pornographic videos and images from a computer in Abrams’ home.

Abrams resigned in August from the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, days after investigators searched his home, officials said.If convicted on all counts, Abrams could face as much as a 150-year sentence and at least five years in federal prison.He is expected to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles later Wednesday.

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