Published November 17, 2014
The last Bell city councilman in jail for allegedly looting the working-class suburb was released on bail Friday after his girlfriend, son and son-in-law posted $260,000 that prosecutors agreed was not connected to the money he is accused of stealing.
City Councilman George Mirabal was released shortly before 4 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's inmate information website.
Mirabal had been jailed since he and seven other current and former Bell officials were arrested on Sept. 21 and charged with multiple counts of misappropriating $5.5 million in public funds. All have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Mirabal and the others systematically looted the modest, working-class city for years in what District Attorney Steve Cooley called a case of "corruption on steroids."
With Mirabal's release, only former Councilman Victor Bello remains in jail in lieu of $190,000 bail.
Mirabal was freed following a bail hearing before Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt at which prosecutors agreed none of the collateral put up by his girlfriend and family was connected to the corruption scandal. Prosecutors did argue that it was insufficient to cover the $260,000 bail, but Merritt disagreed.
Mirabal and the others are to appear in court Dec. 8 for a preliminary hearing.
"Obviously it's much better for the client-attorney relationship when the client is free," said Mirabal's attorney, Alex Kessel. He added it has been a difficult five weeks for Mirabal, 60, who was never in trouble before.
Authorities say much of the money looted from Bell was used to pay hugely inflated salaries to Mirabal, three other City Council members, former City Manager Robert Rizzo and others through illegal arrangements that were hidden from the public.
When numerous perks like vacation, insurance and other benefits were added to Rizzo's $787,637 salary, his total compensation package from Bell was about $1.5 million a year.
Mirabal, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo and Councilman Luis Artiga were making almost $100,000 a year for service on a city council that normally meets once a month. All four have since slashed their salaries and Artiga resigned soon after his arrest.