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Bell City Real Estate Deal Under the Microscope

By Mike WheatleyMarch 03, 2011
  • Investigators have claimed that Bell, California city officials “cooked the books” in a real estate deal where they paid almost double the land’s real value. This is just what California needs, more negative investor incentive.

     

    Former city administrator Robert Rizzo authorized the controversial land deal
    Robert Rizzo, alleged fraud mastermind who oversaw the real estate deal. Image courtesy of 4.pictures.zimbio

    The Los Angeles County city was at the center of a big scandal only last year when it was reported by the Los Angeles Times to have some of the country’s highest paid local government officials on its books. Former city administrator and alleged pay scheme mastermind Robert Rizzo was on a salary double that of the President. Serious corruption charges against 8 government officials are pending in the case, which seems to be getting more and more complex by the day.

    In the latest scandal, it has been alleged that Rizzo, together with Eric Eggena, the ex General Services manager, organized the city’s purchase of a piece of real estate currently leased by a carwash and valued at $612,000, for an inflated $1.35 million.

     

    Bell city residents reacted angrily to last year's scandal. How will they react this time?
    Last year's scandal saw calls for the Bell city council to resign. Image courtesy of si.wsj.net

    In return for the inflated fee, the land’s owner was required to make a donation of $425,000 to the city, which was to be used to construct children’s facilities or a car park. However, no one has been able to find out where the money went, even though records show it was paid.

    The city government ostensibly bought the land in order to redevelop it, but five years later the carwash is still operating on the site. First refusal of the land was supposed to have gone to Albert Neesan and his son who manage the carwash business, but clearly the sum paid by the city was well beyond their means.

     

    Albert Neesan, owner of the carwash at the center of the new scandal
    Carwash owner Albert Neesan has first refusal on the land, but was unable to match the city's inflated offer. Courtesy Los Angeles Times

    According to Larry Kosmont, an ex-public official and now a real estate consultant in the city, this was a deal that simply ran amok. Whoever organized this deal has clearly cooked the books to somebody’s advantage, but the question for investigators remains, whose?

     

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