Detroit – Disgraced trash titan Chuck Rizzo, in a bid to avoid being sent to prison early, offered a detailed chronology late Tuesday of the events surrounding a chance meeting with an FBI witness who helped send him to prison.
Rizzo’s lawyers provided text messages, Facebook posts and phone records to prove the former CEO of Rizzo Environmental Services unintentionally ran into FBI witness Quintin Ramanauskas at a Detroit casino Christmas party – an encounter that threatens to worsen the trash mogul’s legal problems. The former trash CEO’s lawyers say Ramanauskas appeared inebriated and questioned his credibility.
The Dec. 16 encounter at MGM Grand Casino happened while Rizzo was free on bond and ordered to avoid contact with witnesses and co-defendants while awaiting a March 13 sentencing that could send him to prison for 10 years. Rizzo, 47, of Bloomfield Hills, pleaded guilty in November, admitting he bribed Macomb County politicians and stole money from his trash-hauling company while building Rizzo Environmental Services into a regional powerhouse.
The court filing Tuesday was Rizzo’s latest attempt to counter government claims that he violated bond conditions and tried to tamper with Ramanauskas by getting him to lie about cash generated by a lucrative embezzlement scheme.
Rizzo’s lawyers raised questions about whether Ramanauskas violated his own bond conditions by excessively drinking alcohol the day of the casino encounter. defense lawyer David Debold filed Facebook posts by Ramanauskas’ wife from a Detroit bar an hour before the casino meeting – including a photo of two shot glasses on a table at the Miracle on the Skip bar in downtown Detroit before the casino encounter.
Rizzo is due back in federal court at 9:30 a.m. Thursday when U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland could decide to revoke the businessman’s bond and send him to federal prison.
“The question is: Who do you believe?” Debold asked the judge during a hearing last month.
Ramanauskas, who could testify during the hearing Thursday, has incentive to lie, Debold said.
Ramanauskas, 53, of Shelby Township, was a trusted employee and associate of Rizzo’s and agreed to help the executive bribe politicians in Clinton Township and Chesterfield Township.
He pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. He is awaiting sentencing and could spend up to five years in federal prison.
Rizzo’s father, Charles Rizzo, also was at the casino Dec. 16 and witnessed the meeting. Charles Rizzo, who has pleaded guilty for his role in the scandal, filed a letter Tuesday saying Ramanauskas appeared inebriated.
“At this time, it appeared to me that he was slightly inebriated, though I did not know how many drinks he had consumed,” Charles Rizzo wrote. “I noticed that he appeared slightly inebriated because he was being friendlier than when he is sober, was touching the people around him more than when he is sober, and was apologizing more than he needed to for being at the casino on the same night that we were having our company holiday party.”
Charles Rizzo attacked a central claim by the government in its attempt to revoke Chuck Rizzo’s bond.
Prosecutors alleged that Chuck Rizzo berated Ramanauskas and blamed him for his potentially long prison sentence.
“Rizzo then chastised (Ramanauskas) for telling federal authorities that their theft scheme from (Rizzo Environmental Services) started in 2014, which put the total of the stolen money over $500,000,” prosecutors wrote in a filing last month.
Not true, Rizzo’s father wrote in a filing Tuesday.
The meeting, and a second chat 90 minutes later at the casino, were cordial, Charles Rizzo wrote. In the letter, he referred to his son as “Junior.”
“Junior did not ‘berate’ Quint or have a heated or angry conversation with him,” Charles Rizzo wrote. “Junior did not ‘chastise’ Quint or complain that it was Quint's fault for ‘telling federal authorities that their theft scheme from RES started in 2014...’”