Rizzo a greedy crook, not a bullied victim, feds say

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Disgraced trash titan Chuck Rizzo should spend more than six years in federal prison for bribing “two-bit corrupt politicians” and stealing from investors, including Boy Scouts, prosecutors said Monday.

The request served as a retort to Rizzo’s novelesque bid for leniency ahead of an April 23 sentencing in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland. Rizzo blamed his crimes on corrupt politicians and schoolyard bullies who hurt his feelings by spitting on him.

Rizzo, 47, of Bloomfield Hills is one of the central figures in a widespread corruption scandal that ensnared Macomb County politicians, fellow business mogul Gasper Fiore and Detroit police officers.

Rizzo bought politicians on the cheap — $206,000 secured the votes of elected leaders in four communities — while corrupting municipal trash-hauling contracts worth tens of millions of dollars obtained by his Sterling Heights-based company, prosecutors said.

The contracts helped Rizzo Environmental Services expand into a regional powerhouse that boosted the value of his stake in the company, which was majority owned by a New York private-equity firm. Before the company was sold in 2016, Rizzo embezzled more than $900,000 from the private-equity firm and investors, which included Boy Scouts of America, the Montana state pension system and the Arizona state employee pension fund.

“Although Rizzo seeks to re-characterize himself as the victim in this drama, his own actions and words demonstrate that he was the epitome of a ruthless CEO breaking the law and committing crimes, simply to get more money,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Gardey and Michael Bullotta wrote.

Rizzo, who was jailed in February after violating bond conditions, is pushing for less time in prison than the 75 months requested by prosecutors. His lawyers argue more than 30 communities that contracted with Rizzo Environmental Services saved $28.8 million by hiring the firm instead of competitors.

Rizzo struck a plea deal after cooperating with FBI investigators and has agreed to forfeit $4 million.

The corruption scandal has led to criminal convictions of politicians across Macomb County, including Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Macomb Township. In all, 20 people have been charged so far and prosecutors have secured 15 convictions.

“Rizzo’s crimes have undermined the confidence that the citizens of suburban southeast Michigan had in their local elected officials because of the corrosive nature of Rizzo’s corruption,” the prosecutors wrote. “While the two-bit corrupt politicians with whom he dealt sought a few thousand dollars here, a few thousand dollars there, in order to satisfy their petty greed, Rizzo had grander ambitions. Rizzo’s goal was to secure millions of dollars by building a business through his Machiavellian schemes.”

Rizzo spent the $900,000 living a luxury lifestyle and a multimillion-dollar mansion “built on a foundation of crime,” prosecutors said.

He will have access to significant resources once he is released from prison, prosecutors said.

“Through its sentence, this court can put Rizzo on notice that his future business endeavors need to scrupulously comply with the law,” prosecutors wrote.


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