Arrests of ex-Coliseum officials bring condemnation, anger
The arrests Thursday of two former Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum executives and the chief executive of a rave company met with swift reaction from local leaders and attorneys for the suspects.
"Today's events were predictable." said CIty Councilman Bernard C. Parks, a member of the Coliseum Commission. "But it's a horribly unfortunate situation for the city and this historic facility."
L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe said he was not surprised by the arrests.
"It's the end game," he said, "if what we turned over was true."
The charges were not immediately disclosed. The executives have been the subject of multiple local, state and federal investigations over their financial activities.
Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, said authorities arrested Patrick Lynch, the former longtime general manager of the Coliseum and the companion Sports Arena, at his home in Torrance. Todd DeStefano, former events manager at the Coliseum, was arrested at his friend's home in Venice. Authorities also arrested Reza Gerami, chief executive of the rave promotion company Go Ventures, at his home in Malibu.
The Coliseum has been embroiled in scandal for more than a year since The Times began reporting on questionable financial activity.
The Coliseum had become mired in conflicts of interest, spending irregularities and loose accounting that eroded its fiscal foundation and had all but bankrupted its future as one of the nation's most-storied public landmarks.
Lynch resigned in February 2011 after The Times began a series of reports on the Coliseum's finances. He and DeStefano, who quit shortly before the first story appeared, have been the subjects of a criminal investigation by county prosecutors involving alleged kickbacks and self-dealing. State regulators and the Los Angeles city controller's office have also launched inquiries.
Three other Coliseum managers and employees have gone on leave or left the stadium's employment after The Times' investigation questioned the propriety of their financial dealings. All have denied wrongdoing.
DeStefano’s attorney, Richard G. Hirsch, said in a statement that his client had permission from Lynch, his supervisor, to work on the side with the Coliseum promoters. Hirsch blamed the Coliseum Commission for the stadium’s financial woes.
“Todd DeStefano did exactly what Coliseum commissioners asked and expected him to do –- make the Coliseum and Sports Arena a profitable enterprise,” the attorney added. “Rather than owning up to their failure to manage the Coliseum, a group of commissioners with the help of the district attorney are trying to turn attention away from their own mismanagement by manipulating the facts to support unfounded criminal charges against Mr. DeStefano.”
Lynch's attorney, Tony Capozzola, said his client is innocent. "I’m not aware of all of the charges they intend to file," he said. "But I have been providing information to the district attorney's office that I believe conclusively proves that Pat Lynch did not profit illegally from any event ever hosted at the Coliseum."
Officials reacted with disappointment about the allegations.
"It's disappointing that these officials would betray the trust of the public," said County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
He called the rave group an "uncontrollable organization that was a detriment to the community" and that lacked proper oversight and was motivated by greed.
"I have confidence the district attorney will pursue this case," he said.
-- Andrew Blankstein, Paul Pringle, Rong-Gong Lin II and Ari Bloomekatz
Photos: Patrick Lynch, left, in 2009. Todd DeStefano, right, in February. Credit: Mel Melcon, Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles TImes