Hello Muddah, hello
Here I am at Camp Granada - Rick Rizzolo, Vinny Faraci, Mike
(AmericanMafia.com photo by Steve
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
March 19, 2007
TAFT, CALIFORNIA - Though the classic song,
"Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. Here
I am at Camp Granada," may be a very
entertaining parody, the harsh reality
of a visit to a real "camp"
is not at all amusing.
Rizzolo, Faraci, Galardi
March 11, I had the opportunity to visit the Federal Prison Camp about
the temporary home of ex-Las Vegas topless bar moguls Rick
Galardi -- soon to be known to their fellow campers as the "Vegas Three."
I wanted to know first hand if they were being sent to a "country club."
an unseasonably hot and dusty day in California's San Joaquin Valley. As I tried not to speed down the
mile stretch of Highway 166 leading from I-5 to Maricopa -- a
notorious speed trap -- Allan Sherman's clever
kept rolling through my mind.
at Taft Correctional
Satellite Camp (TCI)
at 11 AM just as inmates
were beginning their late morning activities -- activities that are a
far cry from those described in "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," or at any
country club I've ever attended.
There are no
fences around the
Camp (located at
the upper right in
this photo) though it sits next door to a very
imposing medium security prison surrounded by tall fences and razor
wire -- a visual warning to Camp inmates not to stray. Every inch of
the Camp is under constant video surveillance
as is the one narrow road leading into and out of the facility. And
make sure no one tries to make a hasty exit with a camper stowaway, the
road includes axle breaking speed bumps and a perimeter gate.
The prison is also completely surrounded by miles of barren desert
by Kern County Sheriff's helicopters with infrared cameras. That
coupled with six head counts a day reminds me of the lyrics from the
Eagles' 1976 hit song Hotel
California; "You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!"
Not exactly "Camp Granada," but Warden Jeff Wrigley gets consistently
high marks after every State and Federal inspection of his facility.
at TCI long before I heard complaints that there's
absolutely nothing to do. Other than the almost complete isolation and
boredom appears to be the biggest form of punishment. And that not only
goes for the inmates. Family members wanting to spend time visiting an
loved one are discouraged from making repeat visits by an
almost total lack of
amenities in nearby towns. Otherwise its an hour drive to Bakersfield
to access accommodations more
fitting to the tastes of Vegas residents.
When not receiving visitors in the main building, inmates either sit
the shade, many chain smoking to kill time, or walking aimlessly
around the grassy
portion of the yard.
During the summer when temperatures often exceed 110 in the shade and humidity is overwhelming because
of irrigation from nearby farms,
many prisoners retreat to their air
conditioned dorms to spend the hottest portion of the day reading,
watching TV. Otherwise,
a small library.
Some inmates are
to volunteer to outside agencies and organizations in the
community. The inmates are not paid for this outside
work, its done strictly on a voluntary basis.
These inmates are escorted by staff or specially trained people from
community when outside the facility. As a
part of this program, Camp inmates assisted in the building of three
Habitat for Humanity.
program involving inmates is Striving
Toward A New Direction (STAND). This
brings at-risk youth to the Satellite Camp for inmate presentations
their choices resulted in their incarceration.
would be interesting to hear Rick Rizzolo or Vinny Faraci lecture youth
their choices that
landed them in prison!)
All inmates are required to be
involved in work or educational programs.
Inmates can either take General Educational Development classes, or
English as a Second Language. Inmates may
also work in various jobs ranging from kitchen help to general
maintenance. Inmates can also learn horticulture if they
wish to work outdoors and can earn
from 12 to 40 cents an hour depending on their job assignment.
is the first
privately-operated Federal Bureau of Prisons secure institution. TCI
in 1997 and is located on 200 acres of land approximately five miles
the tiny City of Taft, a 5
1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas.
Including the medium security facility, current occupancy is
approximately 2350 inmates.
There are approximately 360 on staff. That
total includes two doctors, one dentist, and 35 medical personnel.
Camp's two-story housing unit has two wings of dorms with low
partitions forming 64 cubicles per wing per floor. Counselors’ offices,
TV rooms, multi-purpose rooms, toilets, showers and laundry rooms are
shared and grouped together
in the central portion of the building.
The Camp houses just over 500
inmates at the present time and is slightly over capacity.
chills out in Al Capone's cell at Alcatraz
(AmericanMafia.com photo by
(At least Al Capone
didn't have to share his
toilet with strangers like the Vegas
Three will be forced to do! Capone had a private cell at
commode and basin.)
Each unit is managed by a unit manager, case
counselors who are located in the core area between the wings. Inmate beds are in open dorms with little privacy offered
by the portable partitions. Each inmate
cubicle is equipped with a bunk bed, desk, chair, and storage locker. Each partitioned area
sleeps two to three inmates.
Inmates are expected to be responsible for themselves without
close supervision by guards. Prisoners have assigned times to eat,
attend classes, turn in laundry, clean their housing space, and perform
various other activities, and are expected to accomplish them as
scheduled without further direction from the prison staff. If inmates
fail to meet expectations, they are disciplined individually, rather
than everyone in the barracks also being affected by the failure of one
individual to perform his duties.
(There are no private maids, valets, chefs, concierges, gardeners, or
at Taft. This ain't Vegas!)
compost project is in operation at the prison using donated green waste
and other waste matter. The compost is used on the prison
farm and at local community projects in Taft. The inmates grow trees
and shrubs for local schools, parks, churches and forests.
Approximately 90 trees are provided for the community each year.
age of TCI
inmates ranges from
18 to those in their early seventies. Drug-related
crimes account for approximately
60 percent of inmate population, and sex offenders are not segregated
from the general population and have so far posed no problems according
to prison staff.
Taft's Most famous
Satellite Camp inmate was
Tommy Chong, half of the
legendary duo of Cheech and
Chong. Chong, who was released in 2004, wrote a book;
Chong: Meditations from the Joint" about his experience at Taft. In it he says the Camp was full of pot-growers,
who were easy to spot: "They all worked in the prison
garden. ... They grew the best gardens."
It's not yet
known whether the Vegas Three
will work in the garden, attend class, volunteer in
the community, counsel at-risk youth, make compost, or just sit around
smoking, but two
of them will certainly have
enough time to make up their mind.
And based on
the fact that all three are multi-millionares, its not likely they will
want to associate with lowly convicted pot growers or meth producers
during their stay at
Taft, and discuss with them the extreme change of lifestyle
incarceration offers for guys who once lived in mansions, were waited
on hand and foot, and drove around town in
month sentence starts on May 22, and Galardi's 30 month stay begins on
June 22. Faraci's short 5 month sentence starts on July 1.
But it might be Rizzolo who will
soon be singing;
"Take me home, oh muddah, fadduh. Take me home, I hate Granada! Take me home... Oh,
make me stay... I might get
eaten by a bear," after his
Faraci is released later in the year.
You see, it was Rizzolo's tapped
phone conversations that steered the FBI to Mike Galardi and his
Cheetah's strip clubs in Las Vegas and San Diego! Rizzolo was
secretly trying to squelch Galardi's competitive business which is
located a few blocks away from Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too in Vegas.
For years Rizzolo was overheard
telling friends about Galardi paying off the same politicians he
was bribing. Rizzolo was paying then-Councilman and former cop Mike
$5,000 each month to allegedly keep the cops at bay so bouncers at his
topless club could
and beat customers who refused to sign bogus credit
card tabs. However, Rizzolo was also heard bragging how stupid Galardi
was for not using the same techniques to pump up his own profits while
Galardi paid off McDonald who did little in return for Galardi's $6,000
per month. All
the while McDonald
secretly remained loyal to Rizzolo and worked to
destroy Galardi's business behind his
It was Rizzolo who was accused of
to repeatedly send City of Las Vegas inspectors and a few crooked cops
to Mike Galardi's topless bars to
patrons and management before McDonald coerced Galardi (with
Rizzolo's prompting) into paying him to
Time and again, Mike Galardi
was duped by Rizzolo; the man who will soon be his cell mate; the man
received one and a half years less time than Galardi after committing
Rizzolo was convicted of tax
evasion and racketeering. Galardi was only convicted of bribing
public officials. Rizzolo reportedly did not become a government
witness. Galardi did. Rizzolo got 12 months. Galardi got 30 months
after thoroughly cooperating with authorities resulting in the
conviction of four Clark County Commissioners. Former Councilman
McDonald has yet to be indicted however.
A source inside the Federal
investigations that nailed the Vegas
Three told INSIDE VEGAS that someone in Washington D.C. "got
to" the Department of Justice and caused them to "go easy" on Rizzolo
and Faraci. Coincidentally, Daniel
Bogden, the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Rizzolo was just fired.
Brown, Goodman, Chesnoff
Rizzolo is a close friend of LV Mayor Oscar Goodman who
is the business
and law partner of attorney Jay Brown who is the business partner of U.S.
Senator Harry Reid. Brown
is currently the lawyer for the
Crazy Horse and once served as Rizzolo's corporate
agent along with Goodman. Vinny
Faraci's lawyer, David Chesnoff, is
also Goodman's law partner and works in the same 520 S. Fourth Street
law office as Brown.
Goodman is running unopposed for
his third term as Mayor.
U.S. Attorney, Carol
Lam, prosecuted Senator
Reid's protégé, ex-Clark County Commissioner Dario
Herrera, with Reid's endorsement, stepped down from his
seat on the County Commission to run for Congress. Reid's son Rory was
immediately appointed to fill Herrera's Commission seat while the
Senator went to work on Herrera's campaign. Herrera's
criminal conviction was a great embarrassment to Reid.
To Senator Reid's dismay, Herrera received
50 months in Federal Prison. Coincidently, Carol Lam was fired soon
after Herrera's sentence was announced. Meanwhile, Rory Reid was
appointed Chairman of the Clark County Commission.
Maybe by now Galardi has
had time to figure out just who fingered him, and wonder why he's
getting so much harsher a sentence than Rizzolo who obviously has much
connections. And after Faraci vacates TCI
and leaves Rizzolo unprotected, Galardi, who's as big as a bear and was
a standout University of Nevada Reno
football player, will have seven months alone
Rizzolo to ask questions and settle their
differences. At that time, Rizzolo's political connections may not be
able to help him.
More about the Rizzolo/Galardi relationship next week.
Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh
by Allan Sherman
Music from Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" from La Gioconda
by Allan Sherman, 1963
© Steve Miller