The Chicago Syndicate: Heat Surrounds Sheriff For Alleged Mob Association

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Heat Surrounds Sheriff For Alleged Mob Association

Friends of mine: Rick Rizzolo, Freddie Glusman

A candidate for Orange County sheriff called Thursday for the resignation of Sheriff Mike Carona in the wake of a published report and photos showing Carona in a cozy pose with a man identified as a mob associate.

Ralph Martin, a commander in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and an Orange County resident, is one of two current and one retired law enforcement officers running against Carona in the June 6 primary.

Martin said an article in the O.C. Weekly and accompanying photos show Carona smiling while the arm of Rick Rizzolo, a man the FBI has called a mob associate, is draped over Carona's shoulder. Carona is in uniform.

The article also contains photos of Carona with Freddie Glusman, owner of the Ritz restaurant in Newport Beach and Piero's in Las Vegas, and Gary Primm, owner of a Nevada casino. Both Glusman and Primm, according to the Weekly, are Carona contributors and were sworn in as departmental reserve deputies before they were cleared through background checks. Michael Schroeder, campaign advisor for Carona, could not be reached for immediate comment.

Martin said he saw the pictures Wednesday for the first time. "Rick Rizzolo is a known Mafia associate," Martin said. "He owns a strip club up in Vegas and he has a criminal background."

The picture, he said, was taken at the Ritz restaurant in Newport Beach, "during some ceremony. We know the sheriff is in uniform, and (it is) obviously a social gathering. They look to be pretty close here."

Pointing to another photo, Martin said Carona is "in the middle giving deputy reserve sheriff's badges to Glusman, who likes to associate with the Mafia especially at his (Newport Beach) restaurant and another one in Vegas."

Martin said Glusman likes to host a clientele that is known to law enforcement officers. "His places are hangouts for known mobsters," Martin said. Martin said he does not know of any criminal background for Primm. "I don't know if he has one," Martin said. "What I saw today was really over the top for Orange County's sheriff," Martin said of the photos. Organized crime agents, according to the Weekly, say the Rizzolo posed for the shot at the Ritz sometime between 2002-04.

Rizzolo, according to investigators, is tied to Chicago and New York organized crime families, and has been described by the Las Vegas Review Journal as a target of an ongoing corruption probe.

The Orange County Register reported in November that Carona accepted a contribution of $1,500 from Rizzolo, and Carona's media consultants acknowledged the men met two or three times.

Two weeks ago, according to the Weekly, Carona's spokesmen said they were "clueless" about Rizzolo's occupation and mob ties.

Glusman, according to the Weekly, flashed his sheriff's badge during a parking space dispute with a former officer, who reported it to police. Glusman resigned before an internal affairs investigation was completed, the Weekly reported.

Carona drew criticism for appointing political allies to reserve deputy positions in 1999 over the objections of the department's own background investigators. According to published reports, Carona appointed 86 allies, friends and relatives to the reserve program, before background checks were completed and days before the state stiffened training requirements. They were later removed from the state's peace officer database after it was determined the checks were incomplete, but the Sheriff's Department allowed the reservists to keep their badges and in some cases, department-issued guns.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times reported that a handgun belonging to a reserve Orange County sheriff's deputy turned up at the mansion of the former video game executive accused of crashing a Ferrari in Malibu in February.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies confiscated the gun during a raid at the Bel-Air home of Bo Stefan Eriksson, who faces grand theft, embezzlement and driving under the influence charges related to the accident, and detectives were trying to determine how Eriksson came in possession of the weapon.

A sheriff's department spokesman told The Times that the .357 magnum Smith & Wesson was registered to Roger A. Davis, a Newport Beach businessman and deputy with the Orange County sheriff's professional services division.

Davis was issued a permit to carry a concealed weapon by the Orange County Sheriff's Department in August 2002 for protection, and detectives were still trying to sort out Davis' connection to Eriksson.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, said the gun was a key piece of evidence. Prosecutors have charged Eriksson with a weapons violation because, as a convicted felon, he is not allowed to possess a firearm.

Martin said the article and photos are "really more a reflection of the failed reserve program that (Carona) calls the professional services reserve program."

"These names have been around, but we've never realized at this point that they were sworn in," Martin said.

Martin said Carona, within the last six months, returned the $1,500 donation from Rizzolo. "If any of (Carona's) deputies were found to be associated with any criminals and internal affairs investigation would be launched and they would be disciplined and terminated," Martin said.

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