Former Toronto City Court clerk sentenced to two years in prison for rigging traffic tickets

A Toronto City Court clerk who changed convictions to acquittals for traffic offenses for $50 a person will spend two years in jail, a judge ruled Thursday.

Francesco Rizzello pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 earlier this year, admitting he repaired more than 100 tickets in 2018 and scheduled some cases before some justices of the peace, according to a joint submission by the facts.

In the years leading up to the ticket-fixing program, Rizello had developed a gambling and cocaine addiction and took time off work to attend rehab, according to the statement of facts. Although he recovered, he found himself in significant debt due to the cost of rehab and time away from work.

He received about $7,000 for his role in altering court records, according to the ruling.

After an informant reported Rizzello to the city, a massive investigation was launched and Rizello was fired. At the time, he denied any financial gain or involvement by anyone. After the police took over the investigation, Rizzello eventually confessed more fully.

The defense argued that Rizzello should serve a two-year sentence in the community, the Crown argued that she should be served in custody.

Superior Court Judge Jane Kelly said she was confident Rizzello was remorseful, if not of good character, and would not reoffend, but said her sentence should deter others from similar acts .

« Public officials in positions of trust must be severely punished if they breach their trust, » she said.

There has also been a significant cost to the city not just to investigate but to prosecute many of the cases that include reckless driving and speeding, she added.

Rizzello was handcuffed and taken into custody after Kelly delivered the sentence.

Bribery charges were dropped against three paralegals in 2020, with prosecutors citing delays in obtaining evidence. The fourth – Benito Zappia, whose advertising slogan was « We win or it’s free » – is due to stand trial for fraud next January, and he denies the allegations. His paralegal license was revoked for misconduct unrelated to this case.

With files from Betsy Powell


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