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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:

Vegas Mayor suspected of doing favors for alleged mob associate
Is city harassing competition as possible favor to friend of Oscar Goodman?
Or could it be a "Good cop/Bad cop" shakedown?

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
November 3, 2003
      Alleged mob associate's dilapidated topless bar                                Thirty-five million dollar competition just across the tracks

LAS VEGAS - In 2000, Crazy Horse Too topless bar owner Rick Rizzolo failed in several reported attempts to kill the zoning and business licensing of a proposed thirty-five million dollar competitor. Despite efforts to stop the project, the new club, Treasures, opened last summer within walking distance of his aging strip joint located in a converted warehouse just across the tracks from the new venue.

First, Rizzolo was accused of enlisting the help of a city councilman to remeasure the distance between the proposed competition and a nearby elementary school. The first measurement showed the project would fall a few feet outside the required 1,000 foot radius from the school and therefore be legal. However, if the proposed bar could be found to be within 1,000 feet of the school, the project would not receive zoning approval. The obedient councilman immediately went to work. Over a weekend, the councilman sent city employees working overtime to remeasure the distance. But the distance measurements remained unchanged and the councilman got busted by the city ethics board for doing an obvious favor at taxpayer's expense.

Then Rizzolo's sister Annette, the minister of the Universal Church for Life Enhancement, was accused of setting up a storefront church across the street from the proposed bar to kill its liquor license application. The scheme was exposed and she suddenly closed the "church."

Begrudgingly, the city council approved Treasure's zoning and liquor license on February 21, 2001 with the Mayor issuing an unprecedented warning. If there is a single arrest and conviction for sexually oriented activities such as prostitution, the city will shut down the club.

Strangely, Goodman's admonition flies in the face of him last week suggesting the legalization of brothels as a redevelopment tool for downtown Las Vegas, an unpopular idea that brought him wide spread criticism.

                                       Las Vegas Review Journal cartoon by Jim Day, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003

As a former member of the Las Vegas City Council, I'm quite familiar with the process used by the city to revoke privileged business licenses. I'm also familiar with ways the city can harass a business such as denying it an off-premise sign permit. But what concerns me most is that the whole process could be used as a giant shakedown to inspire huge payoffs to politicians.

Say a controversial application lies too close to a school or church, or threaten to deny an off-premise sign, or place restrictive unprecedented warnings on the applicant that include the threat of business license revocation, then have a well connected attorney visit the applicant and promise to make the problems go away - for a price. The potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars cash to suddenly change hands in this "good cop/bad cop" scenario becomes apparent. Not that this happened in this case however - especially not in Sin City!

Establishments that serve alcoholic beverages hold privileged licenses. If a privileged licensed business suffers several incidents requiring police attention, an inspector from the city business license department may be asked by the Mayor to visit the offending business to issue a warning. If the horrible problems persist, the owner (if unprotected) can be brought before the city council on a "Show Cause" action to defend his/her license. The public hearing usually features representatives from the police department to outline the infractions.

Both the Crazy Horse Too and Treasures should abide by the same set of standards. But that doesn't appear to be the case thanks to Oscar Goodman.

On Oct. 19, basketball player Dennis Rodman in what may have been a publicity stunt crashed a motorcycle in Treasure's parking lot. The police were summoned but reportedly were denied entrance to the club. Several days later, city business license director Jim DiFiore made an unannounced visit to the club. DiFiore was there to read the Riot Act to management, most likely at the behest of Goodman. When the story hit the papers, the Mayor's threat at the February 2001 liquor license hearing  immediately came to mind.

On the morning of October 29, 2003, a shooting occurred at the Crazy Horse Too. Witnesses told investigators that both the shooter and the victim had argued in the club and the argument progressed into the parking lot where three shots were fired.

One of the more interesting oddities following the shooting was the person chosen to speak to the press on behalf of the management - none other than shift manager Vinnie Faraci, son of reputed Bonanno crime family soldier Johnnie Green Faraci of New York. Vinnie, reportedly a "made man," was arrested and convicted of insurance fraud while he was working at the Crazy Horse Too, but though he speaks for the club, Faraci has never been brought before the city council for key employee licensing, something required of all key employees in other (less politically influential) privileged license holding businesses.
               Faraci                           Lawyer Tony Sgro, Vinnie Faraci, Bart Rizzolo
                                                                  in front of bar during FBI raid

Link to streaming video of Rizzolo's deposition where he talks about his crew

                                    Rizzolo's crew

The latest shooting was just one of many violent events recorded at Rizzolo's topless bar in recent years, but there has never been the slightest interest shown by the city business license department, or the Mayor in regard to the backgrounds of employees working there in key positions.

Mr. Rizzolo shares many close friends and business associates with Mayor Goodman including the Mayor's political campaign fundraiser, and several of Goodman's former criminal law practice clients.

Unexplainably, Mr. DiFiore has never been dispatched to the Crazy Horse in the past in spite of an alleged beating death, dozens of alleged credit card frauds, and numerous reported batteries including that of a Kansas tourist who became a quadriplegic after disputing his bar tab. DiFiore was nowhere to be seen even after the Sheriff recently referred to Rizzolo as a "person of ill repute." But, DiFiore was right there when Rizzolo's main competitor had a problem!

Are there double standards in Sin City?

On November 21, 2002, following the beating of the Kansas tourist, I asked Mayor Goodman to bring the Crazy Horse up on a "Show Cause" administrative action. Goodman (obediently?) refused and the violence continued.

I requested the action be taken after the Crazy Horse received a total of 737 police calls in a three-year-period including 9 assaults and 6 robberies involving bar employees - far more than any other privileged license holding business in the city. Mayor Goodman did nothing other than visit my home to personally state that he wouldn't interfere while a federal investigation was underway. In hindsight, he must now realize that had he interfered, the October 29 shooting may not have occurred.

Goodman and Miller meet in street in front of writer's home

Keep in mind that prior to becoming Sin City's Mayor, Oscar Goodman was a poor shyster lawyer working out of a cheap downtown storefront - that's until he made a personal fortune defending several of Mr. Rizzolo's closest friends and relatives including Nevada Black Book member Joey Cusumano. Cusumano is long suspected of having hidden ownership in the Crazy Horse. He is also known as the man who brought Goodman the clientele that made him a rich man and a pillar of Vegas society.
         Cusumano and Goodman                          Goodman and Spilotro          Rizzolo's lawyer Dean Patti and Goodman speak
                                                                                                                  in support of ordinance to expand Crazy Horse

Could there be a quid pro quo?

Goodman may also be asked to use the city's power of eminent domain to remove a business owned by Buffalo Jim Barrier to make way for a new Crazy Horse. Barrier's auto garage has an iron-clad lease at a ridiculously low thirty-three cents per square foot that remains in effect until 2010. Rick Rizzolo inherited the lease when he purchased the property in 2001 under the false impression he could evict his next door neighbor-cum-tenant. After Barrier hired the state's foremost eminent domain law firm, Rizzolo learned it would take extreme political clout to remove Barrier in order to expand to better compete with Treasures.

In the past, Rizzolo bragged of having the necessary political clout, however that was prior to him becoming a target in a federal organized crime probe. Now, few politicians or judges acknowledge knowing him including the former councilman who did Rizzolo favors but was defeated when the word got out in political mailers. Several local politicians may even face federal indictments for their involvement.

                Buffalo Jim Barrier

Coincidentally, Oscar Goodman's campaign manager and fundraiser Tom Letizia doubles as Rizzolo's PR man. Another coincidence is that Tom's cousin Tony Letizia is the Nevada Department of Transportation's (NDOT) program development manager in Southern Nevada; another agency that will need to cooperate if attempts are made to remove Barrier by eminent domain to make way for Rizzolo's expansion. The battle lines are drawn, and the taxpayers will bear the cost if Rizzolo has his way.

     Rizzolo's dream project currently on hold

As an obvious favor to Rizzolo, Goodman in 2002 sponsored and passed a custom designed ordinance to make the expansion possible. For the eminent domain and expansion to happen, Rizzolo needs to stay out of prison. He has reportedly asked Goodman to come out of retirement and defend him in the probability that he's indicted.

Meanwhile, the city denied Treasures an off-premise sign permit making the business almost impossible to find. The city limited them to renting a portion of an industrial park reader board located at the club's main entrance on Highland Drive.

             Only sign allowed at main entrance to new club

Now that attention has been brought to possible political favors being granted, or shakedowns occurring - attention that includes the watchful eye of the feds - it will be interesting to see if Mr. DiFiore is dispatched to the Crazy Horse after last week's shooting, or if Oscar and NDOT get together to help Rizzolo expand his topless bar, or whether Treasures can build a decent sign. You can bet that movement in any of these areas will not go unnoticed. But of greater interest is seeing who will come forward to testify that they were coerced by a well conected local attorney into bribing public officials to get what was rightfully theirs.

Until then, I hold Oscar Goodman personally responsible for the next victim of violence at his friend's place of business. If he does not act soon, the Crazy Horse and its attendant violence will become his greatest legacy.

Copyright © Steve Miller

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