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Stockstill: A Half Century of OC Political Corruption

I’ve watch a 51-year carnival of political corruption here in Orange County, punctuated most recently by the former mayor of our largest city pleading guilty to corruption charges, while a well-known lobbyist prepares to be sentenced for crimes in the same city.

Arriving in late 1972 as a young reporter, I soon learned that District Attorney Cecil Hicks and his deputy, Michael Capizzi, were eager to identify and prosecute miscreants who shamed their office. And while both rarely hesitated to target those believed to be criminals, more often than not it was federal prosecutors who took down many OC elected officials over the years.

First to take the walk of shame was a civilian, Dr. Louis Cella. More wheeler-dealer than healer, Cella had teamed up with Richard J. O’Neill, whose family sold their ranch to be developed as Mission Viejo. Dick and Doc, as headline writers called them, were major investors in a new hospital in south county. Unknown to Dick—a maverick Democrat in then-majority GOP Orange County—Cella (a medical doctor) was churning out fake Medicare invoices from a printing press in the hospital basement. Indicted and convicted of fraud in 1976, upon parole he spent his final years in a tiny desert community medical clinic.

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