(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - Robert Rizzo, a disgraced former city manager accused of mastermindingthat drove a modest Los Angeles suburb to the brink of bankruptcy, pleaded no contest Thursday to 69 counts of fraud, misappropriation of public funds and other charges.
Rizzo was charged with stealing more than $5 million from the blue-collar city of Bell, where one in four people live below the federal poverty line.
"Mr. Rizzo is trying to send a clear message that he accepts responsibility for wrongdoing," said his attorney, James Spertus. "He made mistakes and he's trying to make amends for that."
Rizzo became the face of a widespread city government scandal after it was revealed in 2010 that he was giving himself an annual salary and benefits package of $1.5 million. His $800,000 in wages alone was double that of the president of the United States.
When he was arrested, he was living in an expensive home in the upscale oceanfront community of Huntington Beach and owned a thoroughbred horse ranch in Washington State. He posted $2 million bail to get out of jail.
Authorities said he paid most members of the City Council some $100,000 a year, even though the panel meets only about twice a month to handle matters for the city of about 35,000 people.
Rizzo, 59, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 12 and expected to be sent to prison for 10 to 12 years.
Spertus said that in the weeks ahead, his client also plans to plead guilty to federal tax charges and resolve a lawsuit filed by the state attorney's general. Spertus anticipates that Rizzo will be allowed to serve any possible sentence on the tax charges concurrently with the fraud term and could reasonably expect to be released on parole in five to six years.
Spertus said Rizzo also plans to cooperate with authorities still prosecuting other figures in the Bell corruption scandal, including his former top assistant, Angela Spaccia.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said prosecutors had cut no plea deals with Rizzo.