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By HEIDI SINGER - NY POST - 5 January 2006

The owner of the hansom cab involved in a life-threatening crash after its horse bolted has a history of abusing his animals, authorities said.

Lorenzo Riccobono, 52, is well known to animal-rights groups in Pennsylvania, where he rented horses to Amish farmers until selling his barn a few months ago.

In January 2004, a judge in Gap, Pa., found him guilty of animal cruelty and fined him $867 after a starving horse had to be put down.

The horse "was a skeleton," recalled JoAnn Mau- ger, of the Large Animal Protection Society. "He was lying there with the noose still around his neck."

During that investigation, Mauger said she discovered two other starving horses, which Riccobono gave over to authorities as part of the plea deal.

Reached at his Queens home, Riccobono said didn't know what caused the horse to bolt and declined to comment on the Pennsylvania incidents.

"This has got nothing to do with the case," he said. "This horse was in good shape."

Mauger said Riccobono has admitted he buys horses from "kill lots" in New Holland, Pa. where people who give up their horses to be killed can be bought cheaply for meat or other purposes.

But Riccobono insisted he bought "Spotty," the 5-year-old carriage horse, from a Pennsylvania farm, not a kill lot.

On Monday, a Central Park horse and a carriage licensed by Riccobono veered out of control after the horse galloped out of control for several blocks, skidding on the wet road and smashing into a station wagon at 50th Street and Ninth Avenue.

Carriage driver Carmelo Vargas, 36, was thrown 10 feet and critically injured, and the car's two passengers were also hurt. Vargas was upgraded to stable condition yesterday.

Riccobono's brother owned the horse involved in the mishap. It had to be destroyed.

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