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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:

Rizzolo's Going Away Party Backfires
Buffalo Jim's Harassment Lawsuit may be reopened

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
May 21, 2007

Last month's festive Going Away Party held in Newport Beach revealed that convicted racketeer Rick Rizzolo and his lawyer Tony Sgro have a sense of humor. But it also revealed that the federal court has no funny bone after Judge Philip Pro considered the party a reason for denying Sgro's motion to keep his biggest client out of prison.

But that was not Sgro's only recent court motion that may come back to slap him in the face. Another motion that temporarily caused the dismissal of the harassment lawsuit brought by Rizzolo's next door neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier is back in the spotlight. It may soon be reversed based on Sgro's own damning words. More on that later.

But first, the party.

The very private event
attended by hundreds of Sin City and Orange County movers and shakers including Jerry Tarkanian, the husband of LV City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, was not intended to attract prying eyes. But despite hosts Rick Rizzolo and Freddie Glusman's best efforts, INSIDE VEGAS was there.

           EXHIBIT A:
Just when it looked like Rizzolo's lawyers were about to get him a reprieve from having to turn himself in at the gate of Taft Federal Prison this Tuesday, Rizzolo's own sense of humor got in the way.

Two days before the party, Sgro filed a motion with Judge Pro asking that his client be allowed to remain free until a purported deal to sell his Crazy Horse Too topless club goes through. In the meantime, Rizzolo told everyone he knows that his lawyer fixed it so he would not have to go to prison, hence the faux Farewell Party.

Sgro's motion backfired when Federal Prosecutors learned of the party in the May 7 edition of INSIDE VEGAS.

Of course, no one actually knows if or when the sale of Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too strip bar will ever happen since Police Special Investigations officers told the city council that the purported buyer, a twice bankrupt guy named Mike Signorelli, can't prove he has the money to match his offer of $45 million dollars. They also told the council that Rizzolo was still in charge of the daily operation of the club despite orders from the council and federal court to stay away.

So it looked like Sgro's motion to let his client stay on the street until his club is sold was intended to be a permanent stay out of jail pass, but the judge didn't fall for it.

Two experts say the club is worth no more that $21 million including the land and building, and the Nevada Dept. of Transportation plans to take a 23 foot deep slice of its' frontage for a road widening. Business has dropped to a trickle of what it once was now that the place is being closely watched by the Feds and people can't be drugged or beaten into signing inflated credit card tabs. Also, the semen stained velvet seats that once served as a bordello in the VIP room have been shut down along with the limos parked behind the club that were mobile bed rooms. This means that Signorelli's $45 million dollar offer is pure fantasy -- a ploy to keep Rizzolo out of jail, and to delay him having to pay off his court ordered debts.

But that didn't deter the city council from their political obligation to grant the permanent liquor license! They obediently voted unanimously to let the troubled business stay open after 16 of its employees pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering, and after their own city attorney and police told them Rizzolo is still in charge. Voting with the majority was the wife of Rizzolo's pal and Newport Beach party goer former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. Despite saying otherwise, Councilwoman Tarkanian voted to give Rizzolo et. al. a permanent liquor license after previously voting to shut the bloody place down

Both her votes were used as reasons in Sgro's motion to let Rizzolo stay on the street:

And had the judge granted the extension, I'm sure additional extension requests would follow because Signorelli is suspected of being only a straw man, and he obviously does not have the financial ability to close the deal.

But the most interesting part of Sgro's motion is this sentence -- a sentence that includes way too much information to be of benefit to his client:

Hello Mr. Sgro! Did you have wax in your ears when Judge Pro ruled that Rizzolo could not step foot on his property and must remain out of the adult entertainment industry for the rest of his life? When did the judge say your client could have an ongoing business that included the profit? Hello!

Sgro inadvertently revealed in the above sentence that Rizzolo never relinquished his interest in or control of the club -- the main conditions of the plea agreement imposed by Judge Pro. Sgro's careless words did the opposite of what he intended and sent his client to the slammer on Tuesday with no delays.

After the fun party, and with false confidence he was not going to have to spend a long hot summer watching Jerry Springer in the prison TV room, Rizzolo resumed his clandestine day to day operation of the Crazy Horse Too -- probably skimming the cash while Signorelli claimed to barely be making payroll. In the meantime, the city council timidly looked the other way.

Rizzolo may have been able to keep this scam going for years saying he was just about to sell his club and dangling beating victim Kirk Henry in front of the judge and council members like a carrot, but then he threw that party and his plan to stay out of prison soon fell apart.

The council seems to be having a love affair with Rizzolo and his money. At the hearing that granted Signorelli a permanent liquor license, Councilman Steve Wolfson said Signorelli has "an unblemished financial record" after receiving copies of court documents from his two bankruptcies. It was also mentioned that the only way quadriplegic Kirk Henry could be paid was if the club was sold. But no mention was made of liquidating Rizzolo's personal assets that would more than cover the $9 million he still owes the Henry family.

Here's the Fed's response to Sgro's motion to keep Rizzolo on the street, and their thoughts on the ill-timed Farewell Party:

After reading Myhre's response, Judge Pro immediately denied Sgro's motion, and sent Rizzolo to pack his bags (g
ray sweats, white socks, white underware/boxers, white t-shirt, white or mostly black shoes not worth over $100, a watch not worth over $100, and a necklace with a religious item attached not worth over $100 according to a recently released Taft inmate.)

But Judge Pro's denial may be the beginning of the end of Rizzolo's personal fortune. If Judge Pro stays on course, the transfer of most of Rick Rizzolo's personal assets to his ex wife just weeks before his 2005 indictment can be reversed.  Rizzolo has over $17 million in personal obligations that are supposed to be paid
by June 30 through the sale of the Crazy Horse. If they are not paid by then, both Judge Pro and the city council have vowed to place a receiver in the business to supervise liquidation.

I don't expect much from the city council, but Judge Pro's actions are less predictable. He doesn't have to answer to Mayor Oscar Goodman who was Rizzolo's attorney, or answer to Goodman's law partners who are well known political fund raisers and pals of US Senator Harry Reid -- someone else who pulls financial strings around election time.

Auctioning off the Crazy Horse is not all that the federal court can impose on June 30. Since the transfer of assets (another brilliant idea of Tony Sgro) occurred during the federal investigation, and since Lisa Rizzolo was married to Rick at the time
of the damages, in a community property state like Nevada, his trust funds, cash, homes, cars, stocks, and bonds can be seized from Lisa to pay their court ordered obligations including Kirk Henry's past due medical bills, taxes, penalties, and fines.

Henry has yet to receive one cent of Rick or Lisa Rizzolo's personal fortune causing me to question why Henry's attorneys Donald Campbell and Stan Hunterton have not yet filed motions in Federal Court to force liquidation? Maybe they're waiting until June 30 to see if Judge Pro or the city council orders sale of the Crazy Horse Too to a qualified buyer?

If the Judge so chooses, the Rizzolo's assets can be seized and immediately liquidated while he sits watching Springer during his twelve months and one day stay at Taft.

But that's not the only setback this week suffered by the firm of Patti & Sgro . Another motion to benefit their main client also looks like its about to backfire on the prestigious mob lawyers.

Buffalo Jim Barrier and his buffalo in Helldorado Parade, May 19, 2007
                              ( photo by Mike Christ)
On Thursday, Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez temporarily re-opened Buffalo Jim Barrier's harassment law suit against Rizzolo.

Judge Gonzalez heard arguments from Barrier's attorney Kim Price with the Flangas McMillan Law Group, and from a lawyer with Patti & Sgro.

I'm sorry I can't identify Rizzolo's attorney because he mumbled incoherently when the judge asked him to identify himself, however he was a middle aged man with bushy gray hair wearing a wrinkled suit.
Attorney Price explained that Barrier's civil harassment law suit should never have been dismissed based on the five-year-rule because the Federal Government had placed at least three stays on the case that prevented discovery and stopped the taking of Rick Rizzolo's deposition on at least three occasions.
Rizzolo's disheveled attorney mumbled that the stays were not official federal orders, and were not mentioned in Barrier's recent motion for reconsideration.
He then mumbled, "The stay is not in this court's record," saying the dismissal should stand.
Despite his words, several other lawyers from Patti & Sgro previously used the stays to stall Barrier's case pending Rizzolo's trial for racketeering and tax evasion. They had also used the stays and claims of Rizzolo's ill health to argue against their 48 year old client being deposed.
Judge Gonzalez asked attorneys for both sides to calculate how many years the stays set the case back, and if it can be proven the stays were actually in place. She ended the hearing with the door open for the case to be reinstated.
Mr. Price has until May 23 to submit a brief stating the date the stay first went into effect, and when the stays were released. Patti & Sgro have until May 30 to answer Mr. Price's brief and argue why the stays should not affect the five-year-rule that triggered the dismissal of Barrier's lawsuit.
If Judge Gonzalez allows the case to continue, another lawsuit will also be resurrected. Rizzolo sued Barrier for defamation in 2002 for his public statements that Rizzolo was engaged in racketeering. Since then, Rizzolo pleaded guilty to racketeering so this element of the lawsuit is expected to be summarily dismissed in the event the two cases proceed to trial.
The irony is that it was Rizzolo's attorney John Norheim of Patti & Sgro who first advised the court that there is a Federal Order estopping the case back on December 15, 2004 (see below).

(Excerpts from the Court Record)

12/15/2004: Mr. Norheim advised there is a Federal Order estopping and it is expected

this will be in U.S. Court next year. Also, his client is very ill and in

the hospital. Mr. Flangas confirmed that the Federal order has kept them

from doing discovery. He requested a six month status check.

Ralph Rizzolo, attorney John Norheim, Rick Rizzolo
      ( photo by Buffalo Jim Barrier)

Then on March 20, 2006, the attorneys for Barrier and Rizzolo brought up two Federal holds and requested the matter be continued.

03/20/06: Both counsel confirmed there were two Federal holds and requested the matter

continued. COURT SO ORDERED, CONTINUED to 9/18/06.

Then once again, on November 13, 2006, attorneys for Barrier and Rizzolo both told the court that stays were preventing discovery.
11/13/2006: Re Status Check: Set New N-J Trial Date: COURT NOTED that no
discovery has
yet been done because of all the stays and Mr. Rizzolo's health. COURT

INQUIRED about the five-year rule. Both counsel stated that the exact date

is not known at this date because of the many past stays.

When it suited their needs last week, Rizzolo's attorney tried to convince the court that stays were never a factor in this case and Barrier's attorneys simply let the case expire. But when his law firm needed to stall the case to keep their client from being asked embarrassing questions during a deposition, Patti & Sgro effectively argued that stays were definitely in effect, and discovery is not permitted during stayed proceedings!

You can't have it both ways.


Judge Gonzalez has scheduled a hearing on May 31 to give her decision as to whether BARRIER v. RIZZOLO will be reinstated.


Since the case was dismissed on May 4, several acts of vandalism similar to the acts that inspired the original harassment lawsuit have been reported. Vehicles owned by customers of Barrier's Allstate Auto and Marine have been keyed or had their windows broken while waiting for repairs outside his shop.

But as soon as Judge Gonzalez indicated she may reopen the case, the vandalism suddenly stopped. These actions further affirm that a vindictive Rick Rizzolo is still in charge of the Crazy Horse.
After Thursday's hearing, Barrier's attorneys showed renewed energy and said they look forward to using Patti & Sgro's own words to prove their case was stayed, and also look forward to deposing the elusive Rizzolo.

"This time he'll be easy to access," said attorney Gus Flangas, "He can't duck a deposition when he's sitting in prison."


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