Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Canadian officials aim to extradite man accused of molestation

Canadian authorities are seeking to extradite a North Dakota man accused of plying children in Saskatchewan with chips, soda and trips to the circus before molesting them and showing them child pornography.

Canadian authorities are seeking to extradite a North Dakota man accused of plying children in Saskatchewan with chips, soda and trips to the circus before molesting them and showing them child pornography.

"Investigation of this file was very similar to other investigations where the offender meets children and then goes through the process of grooming, the children becoming comfortable with the offender," said Sgt. Bruce Gordon of the Saskatoon (Sask.) Police Service.

Lon Patrick Ritzo, a 63-year-old U.S. citizen, left Canada as a fugitive in September 2006, according to an extradition complaint filed by the U.S attorney's office. Ritzo was found living in Grafton, N.D., roughly 50 miles south of the border, and arrested Dec. 22. He's being held without bond at the Grand Forks County jail and has an extradition hearing set for Feb. 16 in federal court.

The extradition complaint says Ritzo sexually assaulted a boy several times between June 2001 and March 2002 in Saskatoon. In May 2007, that victim told investigators Ritzo was friendly toward him and another boy at a Saskatoon candy shop and gave them chips and soda, when the victim was less than 10 years old.

"Over time Ritzo bought things for the boys and took them places, such as arcades, the circus and McDonald's Restaurant. After many of these outings, the fugitive would take the boys back to his apartment where they would play airplane video games," the complaint reads.


The complaint says Ritzo eventually began molesting the boys and showing them child pornography. The victim reported that Ritzo gave them money after having sexual contact with them and told them "he would hurt them or kill them if they told anyone what was going on," the complaint states.

Authorities said the victim's statements were corroborated by additional investigation and interviews with others. Three of the people investigators spoke with, including the victim who gave a statement, identified Ritzo in photo lineups, according to the complaint.

Before living in Saskatoon, Ritzo resided roughly 85 miles to the northwest in North Battleford, Sask. There, Royal Canadian Mounted Police received several complaints regarding Ritzo's inappropriate behavior toward children at a local swimming pool, according to the complaint.

A young witness, who had visited Ritzo's North Battleford home, told investigators Ritzo showed him child pornography and told him "there was nothing wrong with such behavior; and alluded to sexual contact with other children," according to the complaint. Another witness "described a play room in Ritzo's home set up with a small table and little tea cups," the complaint says.

The RCMP searched the home in May 2006 and seized Ritzo's computer, which contained 13,700 images of children, many of which were pornography. Ritzo left North Battleford days after the search and investigators learned that he crossed the border into the U.S. in September 2006, the complaint states.

A warrant was issued in North Battleford for Ritzo's arrest in January 2007, and the same was done in Saskatoon in October 2007. Gordon, who investigated the case, said the "very long process" of extraditing Ritzo began in 2008.

Gordon said tipsters helped investigators determine Ritzo was in Grafton. "We knew he was in the U.S. from several sources, including public assistance," he said.

In general, Gordon said, bringing offenders to justice can help victims find closure with sexual abuse. "It's really not easily forgot or easily dealt with," he said.


Gordon warned parents to pay attention to who's spending time with their children.

"If an adult has befriended your child, that should be an immediate red flag to question the purpose of that relationship," he said. "What's the motive? Why's the adult doing this?"

Ritzo, who was born in Pembina County, N.D., and worked as a voice-over announcer, is charged with sexual assault, sexual touching of a boy under 14 years old, invitation to sexual touching with a boy under 14, making threats and possessing child pornography. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum of 45 years in prison.

Messages left at the jail and the federal public defender's office, which is representing Ritzo, were not returned. Gordon said he's not aware of any charges pending against Ritzo in the U.S.

Ingersoll reports on crime and courts. Reach him at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com .

What To Read Next
Get Local