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: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com
Billy Walters' and Fred Glusman's
political parties may end soon
Crooked politicians and
stinking deals come
together at three posh eateries - two in Vegas -
one in Newport Beach - that share the same host.
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
November 21, 2005
Billy's Cili Restaurant
Oscar Goodman and "host" Tom Letizia
Fred's Pieros - Las Vegas
Fred's Ritz - Newport Beach
LAS VEGAS - In recent history, its become apparent that a very small
cadre of Mob associates are taking over our local government offices.
But like cancer, if not nipped in the bud, the disease can spread.
Like bone marrow carrying infection to all parts of the body, it seems
that what was once the exclusive disease of Sin City is now corrupting
an ultraconservative beach enclave in Orange County, California -- a
place with much higher moral standards than Vegas. Two stories surfaced
this week to verify my theory.
In Vegas, Sunday's Review Journal
to 'Septic Gardens,'" tells of how a connected golf course developer
has taken over the LV mayor and city council, and convinced them to
allow him to build thousands of houses next to the city's sewer plant.
In Newport Beach, two Vegas political movers and shakers are trying to
buy the sheriff. When their names surfaced on campaign contribution
reports, two investigative reporters with the Orange County Register on November
3, began identifying the men, but the stories went beyond the call by exposing
for the first time one of the men's criminal record, and the other's
bogus status as an appointed Orange County Deputy Sheriff.
O.C. Register reporters Tony
Saavedra and Chris Knap gave
investigators in Vegas an early Christmas present by writing of topless
bar owner Rick Rizzolo's criminal record, then two weeks later reported that another
Vegas political player, Fred Glusman, got into an embarrassing scrape
when he flashed a bogus police badge.
Prior to the Register
articles, it was not known that Rizzolo
had been convicted of felony battery for beating a Vegas bar patron
almost to death with a baseball bat. (The victim died three years later
of his injuries). It was also not known that both Rizzolo and Glusman
were trying to influence an Orange County election. Both newspaper
stories make fascinating reading, though neither story registered a
blip on the callous Sin City media's radar screen.
The Sheriff of Orange County, Mike Carona, has been accused by his
political opponent of having Mob ties. The Orange County Register is taking
Carona to task for his unsavory associations, especially when Vegas Mob
wannabe's donate to his campaign and put on at least one fundraiser at their Newport Beach restaurant.
is well known for running a Mob hangout in Vegas, and now has one in
plush Newport Beach. Both are sanctuaries for Rizzolo and his pals
including Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Jan Jones, Michael McDonald, and
other Vegas "Pillars
of the community" who may occasionally want to get away from prying
eyes and ears. However, the Register
is hot on their scent, and the reason for Rizzolo/Glusman's campaign
contributions and at least one fund raising party at the Ritz for a
suspect candidate, is in their sights.
Could it be that Rick and Fred just want to be left alone when relaxing
at the beach with La
Cosa Nostra cronies? Maybe they're supporting the local sheriff to
encourage him to mind his own business?
Back to Vegas. This week, I was asked to write a story for an
international golf publication.
My story, "How
Billy Walters got beat at his own game," tells of how Vegas
political campaigns have denigrated to the point that potential and
incumbent office holders sell their souls to the highest bidders at a
restaurant known as CILI that's owned by Walters.
Last week, Walters tried to call in political favors so he could
convert a once-taxpayer-owned golf course to residential zoning. If
approved, he could gain obscene profits by building houses within 20
feet of a sewer plant -- and for a fleeting moment, he got his way from
a paid off mayor and most of the council!
LV City Attorney Brad Jerbic even wrote the agenda item in such a way
that no one could foresee, or even comprehend, what was about to
happen. Had it not been for the inquisitiveness of one council woman,
Lois Tarkanian, the scam would have passed under the radar. Tarkanian,
smelled a rat (or raw sewage) and called for a police investigation.
Her call triggered a three month postponement of the vote and put her
at odds with Mayor Oscar Goodman who does
favors for his former criminal defense clients no matter the
consequences to the citizens of Las Vegas.
The investigation found criminal activity, but that didn't stop the
mayor from enriching a friend. He simply hid the investigation results
from the rest of the council, and rescheduled Walters' item for
November 2. Two days after the 6 to 1 vote that approved 'Septic
Gardens,' the hidden investigation results were made public by LV Review Journal reporter
McGrath Schwartz. The newspaper story, along with Goodman admitting he
knew of the criminal findings before Nov. 2 -- but didn't share
them with his colleagues -- inspired another
brave council member to call for a reconsideration.
The mood darkened on the tenth floor of city hall where Goodman had
always gotten his way based on his celebrity status (he played himself
in the movie "Casino"), and his popularity with the voters. Also, the
Clark County District Attorney, true to form, declined to prosecute
anyone involved in such an elite rip off scheme.
Just before the vote to approve Councilman Steve Wolfson's
reconsideration of the November 2 approval of "Septic Gardens," Nevada
Attorney General George Chanos announced that a far reaching criminal
investigation was underway that could incriminate former and present
elected and appointed officials including a former mayor and
councilman. Subsequently, the item was tabled until the investigation
is concluded, and no houses can be built until then.
Walters left the meeting with egg on his face followed by his stooges
including Mayor Goodman, City Attorney Jerbic, and Clark County DA David Roger, who all,
by their actions, have proven they can be bought like pigs at an
It was Jerbic and Roger who obediently told the press that some sort of
statute of limitations had expired, and no criminal charges can be
brought against those who were involved in this RICO type action that
began in the mid 90's. Of course, their words sounded more like a way
to protect former mayor Jan Jones
and former councilman Michael
McDonald who drooled all over Walters at the original 1999 council
meeting that sold him 160 acres of taxpayer owned land for a song. (I
originally broke this story.)
Its hard to believe, but on November 2, six (out of seven) council
members went along with his scam, and voted to not only expose
the taxpayers to up to thirty-million dollars in odor mitigation
fees, but to physical dangers caused by being so close to explosive
Walters got beat at his own game," tells the sordid story of Vegas at
its worst, and should be required reading for all reporters, elected
officials, social and political
science students in the nation. It tells of how the owners of posh
restaurants can skirt Nevada and California campaign finance laws and
provide venues for collecting unreported cash, and some later-to-be
reported checks slipped into unscrupulous politician's hands. Enough to
finance an entire political media campaign in one evening!
Funds raised at these restaurants need not be separated from other
contributions and can be deposited into campaign accounts weeks or
months later. Therefore the persons who attended the parties are not
identified, nor are the amounts they specifically donated at the time
of the events.
But, the politician recipient is acutely aware of who owned the
restaurant, the host, and who invited the money-logged guests to
attend! For that, most are forever obligated.
Enter Tom Letizia.
Letizia is the son in law of restaurateur Fred Glusman. Tom is also the
manager and fundraiser for LV Mayor Oscar Goodman; the advertising
representative for the Crazy Horse Too that's purportedly owned by
Rick Rizzolo and possibly others who are not yet identified; and Tom is
a very close friend of Billy Walters who was three times indicted
on money laundering charges. Tom's father in law is also suspected of
having hidden partners in his Ritz Restaurant in Newport Beach --
possibly Rick Rizzolo and his backers. But that didn't stop Mayor
Goodman from naming Glusman "Citizen of the month" in 2002.
Tom, more that most long time Las Vegans, is totally aware that
the majority of local voters are so new to our valley that they'll vote
for who has the most TV ads, and direct mail. Hence, the fundraisers at
his father in law's, or Walters' restaurants. On top of that, Tom is a
really nice guy!
However, I sadly believe that if it was left to my old friend Tom
Letizia, Rick Rizzolo would get away with beating patrons with baseball
bats just for sport; Mayor Goodman would never be forced to bring
Rizzolo's bloody Crazy Horse before the city council on a long requested
license revocation action; and Billy Walters could build all the 'Septic
Gardens' subdivisions he wants! (Sorry
Tom. Let's do lunch.)
In the meantime, the newcomers who comprise the majority of Vegas
voters outnumber the old timers and northern Nevada voters who know the
score, and may next year vote to elect Oscar Goodman governor of
Nevada. Of course, Letizia will be paid handsomely for his campaign
advice and fundraising efforts, and duped new-to-Nevada voters will
continue chanting their new mantra, "Don't worry. Be happy."
The only good news is that reporters in Nevada and California are now
searching through campaign contribution reports for entries listing In
Kind contributions from certain restaurants, especially those with
suspected Mob ties. For this reason, I believe there will be less of
this type of fund raising in the near future, at least until another
method is found to get corrupters together in the same room without
having to report the event in the "In Kind" column. Maybe all this will
long needed campaign reform to tighten up the reporting process. We'll
At least, between the above words and links to ancillary articles, I've
identified a bunch of contemporary villains in Vegas. Will my efforts
make this a better place? Probably as much as the radio operator on the
Titanic's frantic tapping of SOS with the longitude and latitude helped
to save the folks who slipped beneath the icy sea that night in 1912.
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