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Ex-Coliseum official received payments from stadium contractor

While serving as general manager, Patrick Lynch received the money from Tony Estrada, who deposited it at a Miami bank. Lynch's attorney says the funds had nothing to do with stadium operations.

October 22, 2011|By Paul Pringle, Rong-Gong Lin II and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times

"They were palling around one night," Capozzola explained. "Estrada said, 'Let's open an account here and we will put money in it to buy a new boat.'"

Estrada said he made some payments to Lynch in the months before they opened the account, according to the sources. Capozzola said that money would have been for boat costs as well.

He said Lynch and Estrada did not buy a second boat and he did not know how much money, if any, remained in the Miami bank.

The Estrada allegations raise more questions about the management of the stadium, which has been facing financial troubles.

The Coliseum Commission — made up of political appointees from the city, county and state — has been unable to pay for renovations to the stadium promised in its lease with USC. As a result, the commission is seeking a new lease that could give the university day-to-day control of the Coliseum.

Amid the turmoil, two of the nine commissioners — developer Rick Caruso and attorney W. Jerome Stanley — recently left the board, citing, in part, its clumsy structure and ineffectiveness.

The Times, based on public records and interviews, has reported that two firms run by the Coliseum's then-events manager, Todd DeStefano, collected at least $1.8 million in payments from concert promoters and other companies that did business at the stadium and companion Sports Arena. Lynch had approved DeStefano's arrangement with one of the promoters, according to interviews.

After the initial report on DeStefano's business dealings, the district attorney's office and state Fair Political Practices Commission announced that they were starting investigations.

Based on material obtained under the California Public Records Act, The Times has also reported that another Coliseum manager, Leopold Caudillo Jr., directed stadium business to a firm he founded, and that executives — including Lynch, DeStefano and finance director Ronald Lederkramer — billed the government for thousands of dollars in luxury car expenses, gasoline purchases and other perks.

In 2009, Lynch transferred title of a Coliseum-bought Cadillac to himself, according to the records.

Caudillo and DeStefano have said they did nothing wrong.

The Times' reports have also prompted City Controller Wendy Greuel to begin an audit of the Coliseum.

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