Rizzo bag man strikes deal in Macomb corruption scandal
A businessman ensnared in the Macomb County public corruption scandal struck a plea deal Thursday, admitting he helped bribe public officials to secure or maintain multimillion dollar garbage-hauling contracts for Rizzo Environmental Services.
Shelby Township resident Quintin Ramanauskas, 53, was a trusted employee and associate of the company’s CEO Chuck Rizzo and agreed to help the executive bribe politicians in Clinton Township and Chesterfield Township, according to the plea deal.
Ramanauskas pleaded guilty to one county of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and will be sentenced Nov. 28 by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in Port Huron. He could spend up to five years in federal prison.
Ramanauskas is the seventh person to strike a plea deal in the high-profile public corruption scandal involving the trash-hauling firm Rizzo Environmental Services.
The guilty plea came two months after Ramanauskas was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and accused of delivering bribes to public officials.
He is a former commercial manager with trash-hauling firm Rizzo Environmental Services, the Sterling Heights company that is accused of bribing public officials as it expanded a business empire that reached 54 Metro Detroit communities.
Federal prosecutors have charged 12 people in a widespread bribery scandal involving corrupt municipal trash and towing contract.
Ramanauskas left a $3,000 bribe for Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds in November 2015 and a $3,000 bribe for then-Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock in fall 2015, according to court records.
Lovelock struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors last month and is awaiting sentencing.
Reynolds, meanwhile, is awaiting trial.
A separate part of the conspiracy involved using fraud to steal money from the garbage company, according to the plea deal.
Ramanauskas admitted approaching Detroit towing mogul Gasper Fiore with a plan to tow broken-down Rizzo trash trucks, according to the plea deal.
Rizzo Environmental Services would pay Fiore’s company inflated prices to tow garbage trucks and, in return, Fiore would pay kickbacks to Rizzo and Ramanauskas in late 2015 and early 2016, the plea deal reads.
The alleged fraud schemes were hidden from the chief financial officer of Rizzo Environmental and a private equity firm that owned a majority stake in the garbage company, according to the plea deal.
The corruption investigation has led to charges against 12 people so far.
The plea comes one week after a Bloomfield Hills man accused of plotting to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from Rizzo Environmental Services struck a plea deal and implicated Ramanauskas.
Derrick Hicks was owner and CEO of Southfield-based ASAP Services Inc., which provided garbage carts to tens of thousands of homes serviced by Rizzo’s trash company.
Between 2013 and October 2016, Hicks admitted committing wire fraud by embezzling money from Rizzo Environmental Services.
At the direction of Chuck Rizzo, Hicks inflated invoices to Rizzo Environmental Services that exaggerated the number of garbage carts delivered by ASAP Services, according to court records. The embezzlement totaled more than $500,000.
“During the course of and as a part of the conspiracy, (Chuck Rizzo) concealed the existence of the fraud scheme from the chief financial officer of (Rizzo Environmental Services) and from the private equity firm” that owned a majority stake in the trash hauling company, according to Hicks’ plea deal.
Hicks kept some of the cash and split the rest every week with Chuck Rizzo and Ramanauskas, according to the plea deal.
In October 2015, Hicks delivered $50,000 cash to Chuck Rizzo, according to the plea deal. The next month, he gave $3,000 to Ramanauskas.
The government alleges Rizzo, his father Charles Rizzo, Fiore, Hicks and others plotted to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from Rizzo Environmental Services using a fake legal settlement agreement, fraudulent consulting deals, kickbacks, shell companies and stealing money to help pay for Chuck Rizzo’s mansion in Bloomfield Township.
Some of the stolen money bankrolled bribes for public officials to maintain and secure additional municipal garbage contracts, prosecutors say.
Chuck Rizzo called the embezzled cash OPM, short for “other people’s money,” according to prosecutors.
Chuck Rizzo, Charles Rizzo and Fiore also were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.