Authorities in the small town of Bell, California have arrested eight city officials in a corruption case.
Investigators say the eight people were paying themselves huge salaries, including almost $800,000 annually to the former City Manager Robert Rizzo. The total bilked out of local taxpayers has been estimated to be near $5.5 million.
Rizzo joined the mayor and six other current and former city officials in jail after they were arrested in their homes Tuesday.
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After the arrests were made known, Bell residents honked their car horns and burst into cheers during many impromptu celebrations held in the town.
"They used the tax dollars collected from hardworking citizens of Bell as their own piggy bank, which they then looted at will," Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said.
Authorities said Rizzo made $4.3 million by paying himself through different employment contracts that were not approved by the City Council. Meanwhile, council members paid themselves a combined $1.25 million for what Cooley called "phantom meetings" of various city boards and agencies.
Being paid excessive salaries is not a crime," Cooley said. "Illegally obtaining those salaries is a crime."
Cooley said his investigators have pored over more than 60,000 pages of documents and more people could be arrested.