The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Montana Chimpanzee Owner, Jeanne Rizzotto, on Felony Charges

David Grubbs, Billings Gazette - Jeanne Rizzotto of Red Lodge is developing a new subdivison just north of Roberts.

RED LODGE — Real estate entrepreneur Jeanne Rizzotto has big plans for the Red Lodge area.

Besides two major subdivisions already approved, she’s hoping to break ground soon on a golf course at her 500-plus-lot motor coach resort just north of Fox — not to mention similar projects she’s promoting for the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

But Rizzotto, who idolizes Donald Trump and even authored her own version of one of his books, is also dealing with major legal troubles.

Rizzotto was arrested on Mother’s Day on a felony charge for issuing a bad check. The $155,000 check was written last January to James “Mike” Casey, co-owner of a Missouri chimpanzee preserve.

The connection between Rizzotto and Casey goes back to when she bought two pet chimpanzees from Casey and his wife, Connie, several years ago.

Since then Rizzotto has gained fame — some say notoriety — in the Red Lodge area for raising her chimps like family. Connor and Kramer, both now 6 years old and weighing 75 pounds and 65 pounds (full-grown they’ll reach up to 200 pounds, she said), live in a 7,000-square-foot enclosure at her home between Roberts and Joliet. Their $68,000 digs include a 2,800-square-foot indoor facility that connects to her house via a breezeway.

“To me, it was a good deed gone bad,” she said.

In her lengthy version of the story, Rizzotto said the bad check goes back to last fall when Mike Casey invested in Rizzotto’s “Of Course!” golf course and resort near Fox. Soon after, she said, he asked for part of his money back, which she returned. But, by the time he asked for the remainder in January, their relationship had soured.

She said that, on the same day she overnighted the $155,000 check, she learned the Caseys were in the middle of a divorce. She feared Connie Casey wouldn’t receive her share of the money, so she put a stop on the check. Rizzotto acknowledges she had insufficient funds in the account when she sent the check, but insists she planned to shift the funds from another account.

In mid-June, Rizzotto returned to court seeking permission to deposit the amount of the check with the court. District Judge Blair Jones signed the order, allowing the Caseys to settle between themselves their rights, if any, to the money.

Mike Casey could not be reached for comment. But, Carbon County Attorney Bob Eddleman said if restitution has been made, that will be taken into account, but the charge still stands.

“According to law, there still is a bad check out there,” the prosecutor said. “And I believe there’s sufficient evidence to go forward with the charge at this time.”

No stranger to the headlines, Rizzotto is also no stranger to the small-town buzz. In recent months, her broker’s license became inactive, she lost several of her staff members, and by all appearances her Century 21 office was closed for business.

Rizzotto said she allowed her broker’s license to lapse because she was working exclusively on her RV resort, leasing, rather than selling property she already owned. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry Web site, which lists her status as inactive, also notes a disciplinary matter.

Department compliance specialist Teri Ray said the matter — which pertained to incomplete and inaccurate information given to a client — was resolved in 2002 and Rizzotto retained her active broker license up until February of this year.

Regarding staff losses, Rizzotto said the agents left because they needed to work under an active broker. One former employee confirmed the move was a business decision.

As for the office, Rizzotto insists it’s open. Currently splitting her time between Red Lodge and Arizona, she said she locks the office when she’s not in town.

Meanwhile, she pushes ahead with Of Course!, the motor coach/golf course resort outside Fox. She promotes the development as a summer haven for high-end RVers and the first motor coach resort in the nation to include a designer golf course.

Construction on the first hole of the Robert Trent Jones II-designed course is to begin soon. Rizzotto said she wants to play at least one round on the 9-hole course before the snow flies next fall.

“She’s got us in high gear,” said Rick Leuthold, president of Engineering, Inc., the Billings’ firm that is designing the project. Leuthold said he’s aware of the charge against Rizzotto but it has not impacted their working relationship.

“We’re looking forward to working with Jeanne anywhere she wants to plant a golf course,” he said.

Also working with Rizzotto is Ty Arndt, of Landscapes Limited out of Nebraska. Landscapes Limited has worked with a number of name designers, he said, including Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones II. Arndt, too, is aware of the felony charge against Rizzotto, but so far it has not changed his plans to work with her on several other resort/golf course projects currently in the works for the Four Corners region.

“She said she’s got it handled,” he said.

According to an article in the Gallup Independent newspaper, Rizzotto received permission earlier this year to use a 400-acre site along the San Juan River for “Hole in Juan,” an RV resort that would also feature a Robert Trent Jones II-designed golf course. And, she said, she’s just about sealed a deal for “Fore Corners,” a development of four separate resorts and golf courses, one in each corner of the Four Corners states.

In Montana, Rizzotto has already received approval for her Dot Calm subdivision north of Roberts. The layout consists of 161 lots, ranging between two and four acres each.

Greg McGann, planning director for Carbon County, described Dot Calm as a subdivision with a “killer view.” McGann commends Rizzotto for concentrating the homes in a cluster, rather than encouraging sprawl in a rural setting. One phase of the subdivision will allow modular homes. Since they only need to be moved on site, McGann expects it could take off quickly. The first and so far only house in the subdivision, located on Laptop Loop, is a house Rizzotto moved off the property she’s developing for Of Course! She said she donated the house to a young friend who will sell it to pay off debt.

South of Red Lodge, Rizzotto is also involved in the 11-lot RnR Subdivision. Approved in 2003, the development was about to be re-subdivided but plans were called off when neighboring landowners expressed concerns over water issues, McGann said. To date, no homes have been built there."


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