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.
Coliseum General Manager Patrick Lynch at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission in 2008. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / March 27, 2008)
The contractor, Tony Estrada, told Coliseum attorneys that the money came from an increase in his billing rate for janitorial services approved by Lynch, according to sources who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Estrada said he paid Lynch about $1 per hour per janitor for roughly 4 1/2 years, according to the sources.
Lynch's attorney, Tony Capozzola, acknowledged in response to inquiries from The Times that his client had received the money but said that it had nothing to do with stadium operations. "He did not receive kickbacks," Capozzola said.
He said Estrada made the payments to buy an interest in a boat that Lynch owned and a second boat that they planned to purchase together.
"It was a private business matter, and they were buying the boat and they were spending a lot of money repairing a boat," Capozzola said.
He said Lynch now realizes that he should not have had any personal financial dealings with Estrada.
"He's very remorseful," Capozzola said. "He should have never had a boat deal with the guy. He's sad about it."
The Estrada revelations are the latest in an eight-month financial scandal that has rocked the taxpayer-owned Coliseum and left its future in doubt.
The district attorney's office and state Fair Political Practices Commission have launched separate investigations into possible conflicts of interest at the historic stadium, the site of two Summer Olympics and home to USC football.
Estrada's claims are the first to allege improper payments to Lynch, who managed the Coliseum for 17 years before resigning in February after the announcement of the investigations.
Coliseum officials were told that more than $300,000 was paid to Lynch starting in 2006, according to the sources.
Capozzola confirmed that the amount "could be around $300,000" and that the Miami bank statements were mailed to a town house Estrada owned there. The statements were for an account under Lynch's name, Capozzola also confirmed. He said Lynch occasionally reimbursed Estrada for boat expenses.
The payments came to the attention of a few Coliseum officials last year after Estrada and Lynch had a falling-out, the sources said.
Estrada spoke with a member of the Coliseum Commission and was directed to the county counsel's office, which then had a private lawyer investigate, according to the sources. To support his story, Estrada provided canceled checks and other account information, the sources said.
Coliseum Commission President David Israel declined to discuss the specifics of Estrada's claims but confirmed that an investigation took place.
"The allegations became known to the commission," he said. "The commission investigated them and turned over the results to the district attorney. If the allegations are true, then the Coliseum is the victim of a crime."
Estrada, who stopped working at the Coliseum several months ago, would not comment about the payments. But in an earlier interview with The Times, he said that Lynch asked to have a corporation set up for him so he could eventually take over Estrada's janitorial company. The corporation was called Amusement Events Services, according to Estrada.
A Los Angeles accountant, Carlos Chait, said he incorporated the company for Lynch on Estrada's orders. California secretary of state records show that it was established in June 2006 and dissolved about five months later. The incorporation documents did not list the name of any owners or officers.