I was reminded this morning of how far Orange County law enforcement has advanced since the arrest and imprisonment of corrupt Sheriff Mike Carona, the duplicitous character who once dominated local politics.
Sandra Hutchens now heads California's second largest sheriff's department and has polished the agency's reputation by often taking an unamused view of deputy corruption.
While self-styled Christian conservative Carona--now a resident of a federal prison in Colorado--liked to pick up loose (large) women at bars when he wasn't looking for suitcases stuffed with $100 bills from businessmen seeking favors, Hutchens seems content taking her husband and dog on long walks near the ocean.
This week, lawyers for another grotesque symbol of Carona's seediness appeared in a federal courtroom: Frederick John Rizzolo, the Chicago-mob tied former owner of a wild Las Vegas titty club and drinking pal with our esteemed sheriff at a time when The Orange County Register and the public believed Carona was a noble saint.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Jeff German, Rizzolo's legal team yesterday asked a Ninth Circuit federal judge panel to overturn a judge's decision to supplement Rizzolo's prison sentence for income tax evasion after he ignored conditions of a plea deal made with the U.S. Department of Justice.
German, an expert in organized crime reporting, noted that Rizzolo attorney Dominic Gentile told the appellate panel that U.S. District Court Judge Philip M. Pro had abused his power by adding nine months to his client's prison sentence.
But federal prosecutor Peter Levitt argued that Rizzolo--presently housed inside a California federal prison--reneged on his pledge to pay millions of dollars to a Las Vegas tourist who was crippled in 2001 at the hoodlum's strip club, Crazy Horse Too. Federal agents believe Rizzolo, who wrote a campaign contribution to one of Carona's re-election campaigns, has been hiding his assets in offshore bank accounts in hopes of not paying his debt.
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German saw another controversial Orange County/Las Vegas figure in the courtroom crowd: Freddie Glusman, the man who owned the The Ritz, the Newport Beach bar where Rizzolo and Carona consumed cocktails and warm hugs. (Carona gave Glusman a real sheriff's badge before his FBI/IRS arrest.)
The federal appeals panel will announce its decision in coming months.
Carona is scheduled to remain confined in prison until November 2015, according to records at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.