Rizzo bag man dodges prison after helping feds

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Quintin Ramanauskas

Trash mogul Chuck Rizzo's best friend and bag man, who delivered bribes to Macomb County politicians before switching loyalties and helping federal investigators, dodged a prison sentence Tuesday.

Shelby Township resident Quintin "Quint" Ramanauskas, 54, was sentenced to three years' probation 15 months after striking a plea deal with the government. Ramanauskas, a trusted employee of Rizzo Environmental Services, admitted agreeing to help the executive bribe politicians in Clinton Township and Chesterfield Township to secure or maintain multimillion-dollar garbage-hauling contracts.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland also ordered Ramanauskas to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 450 hours of community service.

Ramanauskas evolved during the years-long investigation from Rizzo's friend into a key government witness, helping prosecutors secure convictions against Rizzo and five others, including Rizzo's fatherClinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds and towing titan Gasper Fiore.

"Quint committed himself to righting his wrongs," defense lawyer Matthew Crowl wrote in a sentencing memo to the judge. "He agreed to cooperate with the government fully and completely, in any way the government asked."

Ramanauskas' lawyer pushed for a combination of probation, time in a halfway house or home confinement. The government requested less than six years in federal prison but did not ask for a specific sentence.

Ramanauskas played a key role for the government. At one point, Rizzo was secretly working for the FBI, recording conversations with people embroiled in the corruption scandal, but later stopped cooperating when he learned a prison sentence was inevitable.

"Quint helped bridge the gap, providing extensive and crucial information to the government and the grand jury about his own wrongdoing, as well as that of" Rizzo, Reynolds, Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock and Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas, his lawyer wrote.

Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock runs from reporters outside the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit on November 17, 2016.

Ramanauskas left a $3,000 bribe for Reynolds in November 2015 and a $3,000 bribe for Lovelock in fall 2015, according to court records.

Ramanauskas also worked with businessman Derrick Hicks, a Rizzo co-defendant, in a scheme to overcharge Rizzo Environmental Services for trash carts. The scheme cost the trash company more than $500,000 and Ramanauskas pocketed "tens of thousands of stolen dollars," prosecutors said.

"The defendant was also briefly involved in a scheme with Rizzo and Gasper Fiore to overcharge (Rizzo Environmental) for towing and pocket cash kickbacks from Fiore that amounted to several hundred dollars," Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Gardey and Michael Bullotta wrote in a court filing.

Prosecutors portrayed Rizzo, a successful millionaire businessman, as providing financial stability and friendship for Ramanauskas, who grew up poor and fatherless.

Former Rizzo Environmental Services CEO Chuck Rizzo leaves the federal court building in Port Huron last November.

"While not excusing the defendant’s decision to go along with Rizzo’s bribery and embezzlement schemes, it certainly goes a long way to explain it," the prosecutors wrote.

Rizzo, 48, is serving a six-year sentence at a minimum-security federal prison camp in Florida, where his father Charles Rizzo, 72, also is imprisoned. Forbes Magazine called the prison camp the second-cushiest in the country in 2009. 

Ramanauskas is unlikely to commit another crime, prosecutors argued while pushing for a lighter sentence.

"This is especially true because Chuck Rizzo, the undisputed maestro of the defendant’s crimes, is incarcerated for the next six years," prosecutors wrote. "Moreover, the defendant no longer has any personal or professional relationship with Rizzo."


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