A story of greed, deception and the decimation of a family fortune. Based on true events.
Sam “Shorty” Rizzardini woke up to the light streaming into his bedroom window. and let out a long loud fart, snickering to himself as swung out of bed, yawning widely, he stretched, scratched his head and contemplated the day before him. He was a small, wiry fellow with coal black, greased back hair and known to be quite the lady-killer. He had survived a terrible childhood where he was beat regularly by his father and left with no inheritance but had overcome it, swearing he would never treat anyone that way. He would never be like his father and so built his own wealth, becoming the owner of a popular auto body and repair shop, called Shortys Body Shop. He had a considerable customer base that had built up over the years on his reputation of being a honest business man and an excellent body man. He had a beautiful and smart wife, his high school sweetheart Ellie, whom he adored, a shop full of vintage hot rods that he and his wife both owned and were very proud of along with their two children, Liza and Little Anthony, “Tony” for short, and most often referred to lovingly as “Little Wop”. He loved his job and His life was full. He wouldn’t change anything about it! He would greet his customers each day with a big smile and some funny joke, always a hot cup of coffee ready as the radio played the hits from the 50’s and 60’s in the background. His employees were a solid bunch, characters all of them in their own way.
As the years passed and the children grew, so did the business. Tony started helping his parents in the shop at 18 and learning the art and skills that set them apart from the competition and with his mother’s guidance, the business end. His sister Liza had wanted to help in the office as well but now at 23 years of age with two little boys running around in the shop the whole time, it was very difficult to focus for everyone, always worrying if the boys would hurt themselves or get hurt by some equipment or person not paying attention to where they were or what they were up to with their shenanigans. It just wasn’t a good fit and she wasn’t able to be of much help in the end.
It was by now the “80’s” a time of big hair, hot rod cars, Disco/Rock music bands and late night bar scenes. Liza had gotten married young and was raising children whilst her brother was living his teenage dreams and driving fast muscle cars that he and his father were heavily into and just one of the many things they enjoyed together along with fishing, boating, camping, gun collections, farming and raising cattle. Tony helped his father build the family business, often staying late into the night, even until the next morning working on perfecting some detail and making sure the scheduling demands were being met. You could hang your hat on the workmanship that came out of that shop and the attention to precision and quality.
As time goes by, people fall in love, families grow, move and make choices often based on their spouses’ careers in support of them and their future plan as was the case with Tony. His sister, Liza resented this very much as he was no longer available to help in the family business and she was tasked with more responsibilities than she could or wanted to manage. She had always resented her baby brother who as the story goes, had been a camping mistake. This was just more fuel for her fiery hatred of him. She wasn’t shy to say that she had resentment for him or that she hated him and called him names, and secretly wishing him dead. She had always been her daddies “sweet little angel” and now she had to share. She resented the time that he took away from her fathers’ captive attention and even at his birth when she was of the tender age of six years, she had felt the stirrings of what would be a long and bitter lifetime of resentment that began creeping in from dark recesses in her little jealous heart.
It was a very difficult decision to make having to leave the family business behind when Tony met Mandy. She had come into the shop one day with her girlfriend about some repairs and that was the beginning of a whole lot of changes. You know how it is when your family starts expanding and inviting in people from other family dynamics influences and agendas. All the sudden, You might find yourself at the mercy of that agenda. Not all people have good intentions but unfortunately for those who do, it is sometimes hard to believe that anyone could do to you what you would never in a million years do to them.
Mandy was a nurse who gotten a job in a town a few hours drive from Tonys’ hometown and this prompted a move in order to facilitate her career. They had two daughters together and Tony was taking care of them, and working a job while Mandy worked graveyard. This was very disappointing to the family back home as it left Shorty to run the auto body shop without Tony and this eventually led to his retiring and selling the business. With Tony’s help and his other investments in properties and cattle, and portfolio accounts, He was sitting very well financially. He had no worries about money, and was able to concentrate on his hobbies, the farm and his cars.
Liza along with her husband, Richard Sprat, but everybody called him “Dick” and their now grown sons, were helping to run the land, cattle and leasing out the rental properties. As the parents were aging, Liza took over Power of Attorney for her Mother’s assets and health care and began handling all the Properties, family bank accounts and financial affairs. Tony had moved to be with his wife and support her career but Liza looked at it like Tony had abandoned the family businesses and was again resentful, feeling as though he didn’t care about his parents and even saying it to them over and over again. “He doesn’t care about you!” she would say, “He left!” like it was some terrible crime to move with your family to a new town and start a life of your own. But, over the years she took over control of their every decision with a constant barrage of mental programming and repetition, she would tell the parents all the things she and her family were doing for them, taking care of everything for them, working the land, selling the cattle, raising the hay, and reiterating that Tony had left and didn’t care about them, and they trusted her. They believed in her when she told them she was looking out for their best interests. After all, she was their Sweet little Angel. The only one who cared.
As the folks got older, Liza would stop by once or twice a day and maybe cook for them, do a little light cleaning, some shopping and remind them to take their meds. She would tell them the latest upgrades that the renters were making on the rental properties and how she had reimbursed them for those upgrades and labor and materials. Many times, the reimbursements were far more than the rental itself and most of the time, the rent wasn’t even being paid but she would leave that part out. She would say everything was going great and although she would claim to have been collecting rent, their was no record of it. No check deposits, no cash deposits, no rental agreements.
For a while Liza and Dicks’ youngest son Jack was living on one of the properties with his girlfriend and apparantly paying rent for a short time while Ellie was still handing the family finances and there are records of that until Liza took over Power of Attorney and started managing the rents, at which time all records of income on those properties stopped. Instead of rent deposits, there were reimbursements to her son for labor and work done at the properties, reimbursements to his wife and mother-in-law for labor and materials for painting walls that was purely cosmetic and by request of the “renters” because they wanted to change the color scheme. Purchases reimbursed for a cute little kitchen stove to replace the perfectly functioning one at the request of her sons’ wife. A pellet stove because her son didn’t want to deal with the wood stove. Point of a wood stove is that when the Electricity goes out, you can still keep warm!! so here we have all these payouts, No rents, just “re-imbursements”. Right now this is the wrong word to describe what this is, this is a compensation or credit towards an item, not a reimbursement. This term is misused constantly throughout this story as all Liza’s checks paid out for misc. labor or improvements needed or unnecessary alike, are labeled as ‘reimbursements” This became a pattern that persisted throughout the years as Liza and her family continued to use the properties and land for their own benefit, keeping all the profits from any house/property rentals or leases collected, sale of crops, cattle, equipment, and leaving the paying of all the expenses, and overhead including Irrigation, power bills, taxes, licensing fees, equipment repair and purchases to run the properties, leaving all that to Shorty to foot the bill under the guise of it being a farm expense and somehow therefore all his financial responsibility.
Liza having control of her mom and dad’s bank accounts freely wrote herself and her family these reimbursements as well as loans for purchasing other additional properties in her, her son and husbands name as well as a car for herself. She opened a joint credit card in her and her husbands names and linked them to her parents bank account to it to pay them off each month, claiming it was all purchases for the parents, but the amounts charged each month were far more than two elderly people who have Social Security income, medical and credit cards of their own would ever need to spend. Shorty and Ellie’s bank accounts dwindled away quickly as she continued to siphon the money, transferring funds from investment accounts to the checking accounts and then withdrawing money from them, paying for any and everything that she could justify in her mind and as well as whatever was suggested by Dick because as he would so often would say, “they’ll never know”. Speaking of Dick, He had a good paying job working for the state transportation dept. making over a hundred grand a year, benefits and all that. He could’ve been a great help to Shorty but instead he was considering all the help Shorty could be to him.
Dick came from a local family, well kinda local, he was like everybody …what you call originals are often CA transplants. His Ma and Pa and their two boys had moved from CA years ago. They had a little dairy ranch that was out in Poe Valley. Then he met Liza and they got married. He got that job with the state and was with them for 30 plus years. But that was and had always been his way of thinking, whatever was Shorty’s was his to use as needed. While Shorty still had the shop, he’d just go down to the shop and use the welder or whatever he wanted because that was his mind set, to use whatever was his father-in-laws without asking. For instance, He would borrow the ….( need to check notes)
The Real Eye Opener was the morning Shorty and Ellie took a little drive to check out the farm, which at this time Jack was “leasing”. and Ellie noticed the cap on Jacks head right away which read “Sprat farms”
to be continued…..