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Caan Testifies He Lent Cash to Suspected Mafia Figure

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor James Caan testified on Wednesday that his closest friend--an alleged organized-crime figure standing trial on cocaine trafficking charges--was, to his knowledge, a law-abiding citizen.

Caan, who gained stardom as the son of a mob chieftain in the 1972 film classic, “The Godfather,” testified in U.S. District Court that he has lent the defendant, Ronald A. Lorenzo, thousands of dollars during the course of their friendship.

Lorenzo is accused of buying and selling cocaine at restaurants, markets and street locations in Woodland Hills, Hollywood and Santa Monica from May, 1989, through September, 1990. In a separate case awaiting trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, Lorenzo is accused of helping to plot the kidnaping-extortions of affluent San Fernando Valley residents.

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Lorenzo has pleaded innocent to all of the charges against him and denies that he is a member of organized crime, as prosecutors have alleged. As reported on Tuesday by The Times, Caan pledged his Bel-Air home in June to satisfy Lorenzo’s federal bail of $500,000.

The day after he was bailed out, local authorities arrested Lorenzo on the kidnaping-extortion charges and he has remained at Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $2-million bail.

In a related development Wednesday, Superior Court records made available for the first time show that Caan is not the only entertainer to come to Lorenzo’s defense. At a hearing on Aug. 5 to discuss a defense lawyer’s request to lower Lorenzo’s bail, actor-director James Darren described Lorenzo as a friend with entree to the film industry, whom he saw “two, three days a week.”

“Ronnie is very, very up on films, you know,” Darren testified. “He knows probably more about the motion picture business than I.” Darren added that he, too, would pledge his house to meet Lorenzo’s bail, “if I didn’t have a loan on it.”

At the same hearing, before Superior Court Judge Nancy Brown declined to lower the bail, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Monaghan said that Lorenzo’s alleged membership in organized crime was “a critical factor in this case.” Monaghan added that an expert witness he is prepared to call could verify that Lorenzo “is a made member of the Bonanno crime family, one of the traditional crime families in New York.”

The county records made available on Wednesday included the 17-count indictment of Lorenzo, charging him with crimes related to armed robbery, kidnaping and extortion.

One of the alleged victims, Irv Donosky, is identified in the indictment as a West Hollywood sports bettor who was bound, threatened with a knife and gun and kidnaped in May, 1990. Donosky told county grand jurors that after 14 hours of mistreatment by his captors, in which they allegedly threatened to cut off his penis, he gave them more than $34,000.

Although Lorenzo is not accused of being present at the abduction of Donosky or others, he is accused of helping to mastermind the kidnaping and extortion. Four other defendants are accused of carrying out the attacks.


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