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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:

And they say the mob left Vegas years ago...

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
May 12, 2008

LAS VEGAS - In the years before mob lawyer Oscar Goodman moved to town, local residents left their front doors unlocked at night and felt safe walking in their neighborhoods.

The crime of choice was skimming profits from casinos before the IRS could get their share. Street crime was not allowed, and a cowboy mentality on the part of local police made sure of that. If anyone harmed a tourist, their carcass usually was found in a shallow grave just over the state line in San Bernadino County, California, or Mojave County, Arizona.

The old expression "Don't shit where you eat" clearly prevailed in early Las Vegas, the town I grew up in and once loved.

Las Vegas was as safe a town as could be in America. It was to remain such a place up until the late 1970's when a new breed of mobster saw golden opportunities here to sully our landscape by preying on the local populace who by then had completely let down their guard.

When the locals began installing security cameras, the new mob went after the tourists, especially those who sought companionship from the opposite sex. Soon strip clubs like the Crazy Horse Too appeared on the scene, and Vegas began to gain a much more sinister reputation.

But that didn't seem to matter much while the money poured in and high rises began shooting up in all parts of town.

With mob mouthpiece Oscar Goodman (center) by their side, the likes of Tony "The ant" Spilotro (left), Herb Blitzstein (right), Joey Cusumano, and Joe Blasko found Vegas to be a safe haven for a new style of street crime; a style that has since found new and lucrative stomping grounds in the current "Sin City" industries that have taken over the landscape; strip clubs, massage parlors, and escort services.

The safe town Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Moe Dalitz built in the late 40's and 50's was based on its bang for the buck and giving visitors a fair shake. Most everything was given away to inspire free wheeling gambling. Food, drink, even the company of show girls was readily available to keep visitors loose and busy at the tables.

The slogans "Keep Las Vegas Green. Bring Money!" and "I drove to Vegas in a new $6,000 Cadillac, but went home in a $40,000 Greyhound bus," along with the picture of a man wearing only a barrel while thumbing a ride on Highway 95 were printed on every type of T-shirt and souvenir ash tray found in historic Fremont Street tourist traps like Trader Bill's.

One thing was for sure, a good time was had by all. And everybody came back again and again. But it was also well known that visitors could let their hair down in complete safety. Our evening TV news half hours were hard to fill with anything exciting. This town was dull compared to similar size cities.

Of course there was an underside, a side I was more than familiar with. I was growing up in the "last resort" in America, but things were about to drastically change during my later years here. The town began to covet its "Sin City," "What happens here, stays here" image in the press, and a few of us rebelled, especially those of us trying to raise our children in such a place.

Family of Buffalo Jim Barrier await toxicology reports

With so many questions still unanswered regarding the mysterious death of Las Vegas' most fearless crime fighter, the four daughters of the late James "Buffalo Jim" Barrier are doing their best to remain patient while two independent forensic labs conduct toxicology tests to try to determine whether Barrier met with foul play.

Despite his bad boy image, Barrier was the single father of four daughters, and he did a wonderful job of raising his children in a very hostile environment.

There are many coincidences that lead many to believe Barrier's untimely death had something to do with his two-decade-long battle with his next door mob owned topless bar the Crazy Horse Too, and the part he played in its closure, and imprisonment of its owner Rick Rizzolo.

Buffalo Jim Barrier was part of the old Las Vegas, and until his last day fought to protect those unusual standards that he and I grew to love and respect as young men in a boom town.

Buffalo Jim hated bullies. He devoted the last years of his life trying to put some of them in prison, and succeeded.

But as the weeks roll by since his untimely April 5 death, new information is coming to light. Until the family can personally view the four minute long video tape that allegedly shows Barrier checking in to the budget motel where his lifeless body was discovered the following day, closure cannot come for his family and friends.

Was he murdered? Or was Barrier taking a pause in his highly structured life to try to re-live a moment from his youth, and his body just gave out?

While we await the police department's, coroner's, and family's private pathologist's final determination of the cause of death, journalist Joshua Longobardy poured his heart into the nine page May 8, Las Vegas Weekly cover story "Larger than life," about the life and death of his friend, "Las Vegas Most Colorful Character."

Longobardy tells a fascinating tale of a man who's legend will live on and on in the bizarre history of Las Vegas.

Vinny Faraci allegedly back in strip club business -- this time in the county

Nine weeks before he was scheduled to check in to a federal prison to serve a five month sentence, Crazy Horse Too defendant Vinny Faraci on April 24, 2007 had his lawyer David Chesnoff apply for a Clark County Liquor License so Faraci could operate a topless bar to be named "Eden" after his release.

The county wisely turned down this arrogant request following an INSIDE VEGAS column on the subject.

When asked how such an application made it on to the Clark County Commission's agenda, a spokesperson for the county business license department told INSIDE VEGAS, "Faraci had a high powered attorney who wanted it on the consent agenda."

David Chesnoff is Mayor Oscar Goodman's and attorney Jay Brown's law partner at their 720 S. Fourth Street law firms.

Because most items on consent agendas are voted on in one motion without discussion, Chesnoff apparently thought he could pull this off without the public being made aware that a convicted felon had applied for a privileged liquor license just weeks before going to the slammer.

Notice the date of the above agenda item - April 24, 2007

Now notice the date of Mr. Faraci's release from prison - November 30, 2007

That took extreme chutzpah -- or the law partner of the mayor of Las Vegas -- to even think they could get it on. But the mob has become very accustomed to getting their way since Oscar Goodman came to town.

Mayor Oscar Goodman with protégés Gardy Jolly and David Chesnoff

It didn't take long after Faraci's release for rumors to surface about his hidden ownership in Eden. Nor did it take long after his former partner Rick Rizzolo's release from prison for rumors to surface about his hidden ownership in Bada Bing.

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid's father U.S. Senator Harry Reid is the business partner of Jay Brown. Brown and Oscar Goodman once served as Rick Rizzolo's corporate Resident Agents, and Goodman once served as Rizzolo's criminal defense attorney.

Brown (on left in this Review Journal photo by Clint Karlson) in 2007 represented the Crazy Horse Too in a license application before the Las Vegas City Council.

An INSIDE VEGAS investigator visited Eden this week to apply for a job with the intention of finding out who is the boss.

When our source arrived at the club the source was introduced to a woman named Phyllis Faraci who reportedly identified herself as being in charge.

Phyllis then instructed the purported job applicant to return after 9 PM to talk to Vinny (Faraci) who she described as the person who approves all new hires.

Since their release from prison, it's heavily rumored that Faraci and Rizzolo are back in the strip club business along with another Crazy Horse Too convicted felon named Al Rapuano (walking behind Rizzolo in this photo by Mike Christ). Faraci at Eden; Rizzolo and his family at Bada Bing; and Rapuano at Penthouse -- three clubs located in the county, two on land owned by the Fertitta family of Station Casinos fame.

The Fertittas proudly attended Rick Rizzolo's welcome home party on April 4, the day he was released from custody, even though Nevada law prohibits unlimited gaming license holders from associating with ex-felons.

Ted Binion lost his gaming license at the Horseshoe because of his relationship with Herb Blitzstein, and Frank Sinatra lost his gaming license at Cal Neva Lodge because of his relationship with Sam Giancana.

But the same gaming enforcement rules no longer seem to apply to the Fertitta family in this new Las Vegas. This family seems to be immune to scrutiny even though they unabashedly associate with guys who rightfully belong in our state's infamous Black Book of persons excluded from entering casinos.

Faraci, Rizzolo, and Rapuano have ties to Oscar Goodman and Jay Brown. Brown has business ties to U.S. Senator Harry Reid who is the father of Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid. The Fertittas (L to R Tillman, Frank, and Lorenzo) are huge political campaign contributors. They own 15 casinos in Las Vegas, and one in Sacramento, California.

Because all the new strip clubs are located outside the city limits in the unincorporated county, it doesn't appear as if Mayor Goodman is involved as much as he was with the Crazy Horse Too that was located within the city limits. And it also doesn't appear that the county commissioners are paying much attention to who is really behind these three new clubs.

The city based Crazy Horse Too closed down in July 2007, and less than a year later three new clubs open in the county with familiar faces reportedly running them.

Goodman is rumored to be interested in running for Nevada governor in 2010. Until then, pretending to keep his distance from his law firm's former and current mob clients may be in his best political interest.

And they say the mob left Vegas years ago...

Copyright © Steve Miller

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