|By Linda Halstead-Acharya, Billings
Gazette, Mont.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 4, 2009 - RED LODGE -- Culminating a year of legal and personal troubles, Red Lodge developer Jeanne Rizzotto has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
According to documents filed in federal bankruptcy court in Butte, Rizzotto states her assets at $3.2 million and her liabilities at slightly more than $4 million.
Among the 40 creditors holding unsecured claims are several area businesses, including Mrachek Popp and Associates of Red Lodge; Hendrickson, Everson, Noenning and Woodward P.C. of Billings; Security by Kenco of Billings; and J.D. Deines of Red Lodge.
But claims hail from Florida to Washington, El Paso to Minneapolis. The smallest, for $176.55, comes from a portable-toilet business in Farmington, N.M. The largest unsecured claim -- $655,000 -- was incurred for professional services by Robert Trent Jones of California. Jones' firm was hired to design the golf course for Rizzotto's planned upscale Of Course RV Resort just north of Fox. Also listed as claims were more than $140,000 in credit card purchases. Creditors holding secured claims include the Bank of Red Lodge, Avanta Federal Credit Union of Billings and Rocky Mountain Contract Service of Billings. The Beartooth Bank of Billings is shown as having a secured claim on more than 500 acres of property in the Red Lodge area, valued at nearly $1.7 million. Claims for the Bank of Red Lodge total more than $700,000.
Rizzotto, who could not be reached for comment, included among her assets an office in Red Lodge, her home outside Boyd, lots in her Dot Calm Subdivision near Roberts and property in Arizona. Listed as exempt from the bankruptcy proceedings are her two 7-year-old chimpanzees, valued at $30, which she has raised like children.
The bankruptcy documents also list nine lawsuits, currently in progress, that target Rizzotto or were filed by her. HKM Engineering, RV Resort LLC and Avanta have all filed suits seeking collections from her. But Rizzotto herself has filed for collections from two former employees, claiming they owe her $10,000 each for services that were never provided. Likewise, she filed a suit against a Billings businessman, alleging that he has not returned four four-wheelers and a trailer that he borrowed from her, valued at $13,000. She records the total amount she believes is owed to her -$33,000 -- as personal property.
Rizzotto's troubles date to last spring when she appeared in court on a felony charge of writing a bad check. Since then, she has been charged with forging her son's name on a deed and was also cited with creating a public nuisance when her chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure last November and allegedly bit a woman.
In March, she was given a deferred sentence on the bad-check charge and an understanding that the forgery charge would be dropped, contingent on her paying a fine of $1,000 and $155,000 for the bad check. At that time she was given a six-month extension to make restitution.
A hearing for a jury trial on the public-nuisance charge is scheduled for July 16 in Red Lodge.
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