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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Going away parties held for Rizzolo in Vegas
& Philly while his attorney tries to squelch
sale of his Sin City club to an outsider

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
January 30, 2006

LAS VEGAS - Its been a busy week for rumor mongers on both coasts. In Sin City, the buzz is that San Francisco real estate mogul
Luke Brugnara applied to the city business license department for a temporary license to operate the Vegas Crazy Horse Too strip club. Its also rumored that he offered $40 million for the business and property, and the offer was accepted.

In Philadelphia, Rick Rizzolo, the purported owner of the Vegas Crazy Horse, was granted a liquor license without a background check or public hearing, and last week opened the East Coast version of the Horse complete with a transplanted Vegas manager allegedly well versed in
racketeering, extortion, robbery, and tax evasion -- the skills Rizzolo,, are accused of using to make his Sin City venue a financial success -- the same skills the Feds are expected to expose in court to insure that Rizzolo is going away for a long long time.

Meanwhile, its PARTY ON!

New Years Eve 2006 at The Bellagio. Rick Rizzolo (left) cavorts with Rocco Lombardo and friends. At the time, Rocco's brother Joey "The Clown" Lombardo was still a fugitive
from justice. Joey has since been caught and indicted for 18 murders. Rocco, up until recently, was an executive at the Las Vegas Crazy Horse Too, but did not admit to knowing the whereabouts of his brother for the eight months he was on the lam.

January 25, 2006. Philadelphia city officials rushed to grant Rizzolo a liquor license without holding a public hearing or checking his background (and we thought that only happened in Vegas!). The Philadelphia Crazy Horse (photo on left) held its Grand Opening last week with Vegas and Philly luminaries in attendance.

Back in Vegas, Las Vegas SUN columnist Jeff German was the first to report that San Francisco real estate man Luke Brugnara offered Rizzolo $40 million for his troubled LV club. But Rizzolo's attorney Tony Sgro is suddenly trying to besmirch Brugnara's character -- possibly to squelch the deal!

"There is no deal with Mr. Brugnara. He hasn't been in our life for quite some time. There's nothing going on." - Tony Sgro

"Mr. Sgro's a liar. I do have a deal. We have an agreement. We have a price. We have a closing date. We have terms. And it's all set. I haven't gotten any phone call from Rick telling me he's reneging on our deal. As of today, I have a deal to buy the club." - Luke Brugnara

"We concluded that he wasn't serious about purchasing the Crazy Horse. I think he was more interested in the fringe benefits of owning a topless club." - Tony Sgro

            Luke Brugnara                               Tony Sgro
Review Journal photos by Jeff Schied and GaryThompson

"Fringe benefits?" Not exactly encouraging words from an attorney who's supposed to be looking out for his client's best interests. Brugnara is known to be a family man active in the Catholic Church, so Sgro's words must surely have cut deep. Brugnara is also well known for creating absolute misery for anyone who gets in his way, and it looks like Sgro might have stepped into his sights with that remark.

"They came to me in October of last year. I didn't come to them. He was selling me the club because he had to. That's what his close advisers told me. For them to try to besmirch me through their attorney just shows that they obviously have some ulterior motive for wasting my time." - Luke Brugnara, LV SUN, 01/27/06

If the clubs are allowed to stay open, its expected that whoever succeeds Rizzolo as the next operator of the Crazy Horses will be another front for organized crime. But by Sgro openly attacking Brugnara, he paid the San Franciscan the ultimate compliment. Apparently, Brugnara doesn't qualify as a mob front man!

Whether Rizzolo's suspected backers, most with reported Chicago mob ties, would accept the brash young Brugnara (37) horning in on their Vegas gold mine is the question? He's known as being fiercely independent and ruthless. Could Brugnara be so wealthy (his net worth is estimated to be over one-half billion dollars) that he cannot be influenced or intimidated -- two prerequisites for being a mob front man?

In other words,
may not be susceptible to paying tribute, and in a town like Vegas, being that independent could also inspire former mob attorney-turned-mayor Oscar Goodman to find him unsuitable for licensure as did the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Rizzolo and many of his associates were former Goodman clients, therefore they were found suitable for liquor licenses. But Brugnara has no Vegas ties as proven in 2001 when the Nevada Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to deny his gaming application. At the conclusion of the hearing he yelled, "It's
so predictable what you'll do. The people on the Strip wind you up." "This was a kangaroo court from day one. These bureaucrats are jealous and envious of me."

According to writer Jeremy Mullman in the San Francisco Weekly, "Brugnara responded with nearly pyrotechnic anger, accusing the (Nevada Gaming) commissioners of being controlled by a cartel of insiders and threatening to sue.

Not exactly the actions of a well juiced mob associate!

Its said that our mayor never met a real mob associate he didn't like -- or wouldn't license, so it would be ironic if Mayor Goodman is asked to determine whether Brugnara is fit to step into Rizzolo's shoes to run the Crazy Horse. Goodman treats Rizzolo like a "Pillar of the community, so those shoes may be hard to fill in Goodman's warped opinion. I can even see Goodman chastising Brugnara at the licensing hearing, then turning him down -- as if Rizzolo had been a fit operator.

Brugnara expects to receive a temporary license within the next week or two. However, the city council will have to approve his permanent license. If the council approves the license transfer -- and they should after letting Rizzolo's crew get away with murder and mayhem for so many years -- the family of beating victim Kirk Henry may end up receiving the bulk of the $40 million buy out money, along with Rizzolo's out of state criminal defense attorneys, while Rick dreams of what could have been from a prison cell, and his local lawyer Sgro languishes over losing his best client and a constant pool of prospective clients.

But that may interfere with a possible grand scheme to appease the mob: To replace Rizzolo with a "Mr. Clean Face" acceptable to Oscar Goodman and his obedient council, something Brugnara with his big mouth doesn't appear qualified to do.

And that brings up this bit of wild speculation. 
For years, untalented local attorneys Dean Patti and Tony Sgro have been milking Rizzolo for legal fees. Most of their legal actions have failed including trying to evict next door neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier who has a racketeering law suit against Rizzolo; trying to gag Steve Miller; and losing numerous Small Claims Court cases, but their main client continues to believe in them, and pay their outrageous fees maybe because they've demonstrated that they have at least one local judge in their pocket, and close ties to the mayor.

DEAN PATTI, left, attorney for the Crazy Horse Too, questions the language in a section of a proposed stripper regulation during a City Council Recommending Committee meeting. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, right, said the regulations (to prohibit 18 year olds from stripping) were unnecessary. STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN

Could Sgro be acting independently -- trying to kill the sale in order to preserve his goose that lays golden eggs? If the bar is sold, I'm sure the buyer will have better taste in lawyers, and he knows it. Or is he following orders from the mob who don't want Brugnara anywhere near their Vegas playpen?

So, Rizzolo's celebrations may be short lived. His business is described as a "racketeering 'enterprise' as defined under federal racketeering statutes" in a Department of Justice news release. When the Feds use such harsh words, indictments and possible forfeitures are close behind.

Now thanks to Luke Brugnara, if the sale goes through, the Feds, Kirk Henry, and Barrier won't have to liquidate Rick Rizzolo's assets. They can just put liens on his property and seize the cash when it goes into escrow. That way, Brugnara would still get the Vegas Crazy Horse no matter who gets the money.

Maybe that's why Sgro is trying so hard to squelch the deal?

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