Monkey business


A Montana-based real estate developer who became better known for raising chimpanzees filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection two weeks ago.

Jeanne Rizzotto of Boyd, Mont., lives with two 7-year-old chimpanzees, Connor and Kramer, whom she mothers like children. Rizzotto appeared with the chimps March 2 on NBC’s “Today Show” snuggling in bed, watching TV and teaching them sign language. The chimps live in a giant playroom attached to Rizzotto’s home. They can dress themselves and one, reportedly, is toilet trained.

The bankruptcy filing caps more than a year of legal troubles surrounding Rizzotto. The same week as her “Today Show” appearance, she received a deferred sentence on a felony charge of issuing a bad check for $155,000 written to a Missouri chimpanzee preserve. Last November, Rizzotto faced a public nuisance charge after Connor and Kramer escaped and one of them, according to court records, bit a woman.

Rizzotto’s real estate ventures include the 190-acre “Of Course” RV Resort—the first motor coach resort, she has said, to include a designer golf course—and the 320-acre “Dot Calm” subdivision, both near Red Lodge. Other developments in the works include the “Hole in Juan” resort along the San Juan River in New Mexico and the “Canyon ParForFore” golf resort near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The May 27 bankruptcy filing, prepared by Missoula attorney Jon Binney of Binney Law Firm PC, lists Rizzotto’s assets at $3.2 million and her liabilities at $4 million. Creditors holding secured claims include Beartooth Bank of Billings, which holds a claim on “Of Course” and “Dot Calm” valued at roughly $1.7 million. Unsecured creditors include Crowley Law Firm and Garlington Lohn & Robinson, both of Missoula, owed about $43,000 and $2,000, respectively. Rizzotto also racked up more than $140,000 in credit card debt.

Listed among Rizzotto’s personal property in the court papers are her two chimpanzees. Their combined value? A measly $30, $20 less than her dog.

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