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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:

Top Cop calls Rizzolo person of "ill repute," and "suspect"


INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
August 11, 2003

"He violated department policies prohibiting officers from accepting gifts from suspects and consorting with persons of ill repute." - Clark County Sheriff Bill Young on a police officer taking money from topless bar owner

On Tuesday, August 5, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Internal Affairs investigators ruled that a 23 year veteran officer violated department policies prohibiting officers from "accepting gifts from suspects" and "consorting with persons of ill repute," when the officer accepted a "loan" of $15,000 from embattled topless bar owner Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo.

The money was allegedly loaned to Metro Sgt. Tom Keller in 1999, but was not repaid until last month after Keller learned the FBI found records of the transaction in Rizzolo`s desk during a February 20, combined FBI and IRS raid of the Crazy Horse Too in Las Vegas. Rizzolo is a suspect in an ongoing federal racketeering probe, and his bar has been the scene of numerous acts of violence that have been ignored by local police and the District Attorney, but sparked the FBI investigation.

Keller said his wife, also a high level employee of Metro for the past five years, was never aware of the money he received from Rizzolo. The husband and wife receive combined yearly salaries of close to $190,000 from Metro.

Following discovery of the monetary transaction, the Sheriff last month suspended Keller for three weeks without pay and transferred him to the patrol division.

A police officer that requested anonymity made the following statement in support of Keller:

"I've known Tom for a lot of years and never had a reason not to trust him. He made a real bad decision in borrowing money from such a notorious character as Rizzolo even if they were boyhood pals. This mistake has cost him not only the loss of almost a month of pay and benefits, but a very prestigious job as head of the cyber-crimes unit. With all his years of experience and technical expertise, there was probably no one better qualified for that position than Tom," stated the fellow officer.

The Sheriff had this to say:

"Some people would tell you there's nothing wrong with accepting $15,000 from Rick Rizzolo, but cops are held to higher standards," said Sheriff Young, who along with Undersheriff Doug Gillespie set Keller's punishment. "If Tom were in any other business, this would be a nonissue. But I find it improper when a (police) employee takes a loan from someone in a highly regulated, controversial business with no intention of paying it back."

This is not the first time Rizzolo's name has been associated with questionable activities involving police officers. Since the disclosure of Rizzolo's possible gift to Keller, other stories have surfaced involving police officers allegedly doing favors for Rizzolo.

Former Chicago police officer Fred Pascente, a member of Nevada's infamous "Black Book" of people excluded from state casinos, was arrested in 1999 at McCarran International Airport after failing to register with police within 48 hours of arriving in town. At the time of his arrest, he was in the company of Rizzolo who was escorting him to his flight. Pascente in 1994 was convicted of a felony for mail fraud and alleged mob ties. Pascente left the Chicago police force in 1993 after the mail fraud but before his felony conviction. He now works at the Crazy Horse Too in Chicago, a business that is associated with Rizzolo.

Former Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald, a Las Vegas police officer when he was elected in 1995, was twice investigated but never charged over his friendship with Rizzolo. McDonald resigned from the Police Department in 1999 and lost his council seat earlier this year. While a councilman, he was often accused of doing Rizzolo favors behind the scenes though he abstained each time the bar owner came before the council.

In 1998, Metro Internal Affairs investigated an anonymous letter saying McDonald was allowed "to use his position as a police officer" in connection with Rizzolo. "For obvious favors received from Rizzolo, McDonald has his fellow officers target Little Darlings, Club Exotica," the letter said. "McDonald is always at the Crazy Horse on Industrial Road with Rizzolo. He is able to entertain his fellow officers who target the other strip joints."

The charges in the letter were never substantiated though McDonald lived rent-free for two years in a golf course villa owned by one of Rizzolo's close associates, and was often scene entertaining off duty cops in the VIP room of the topless bar.

In 2000, McDonald was investigated for allegedly trying to aid Rizzolo in squelching two competitive adult businesses.

McDonald appeared before the Clark County Commission to protest the approval of Sapphire, a competitive gentleman's club, because of its proximity to a Catholic Church located more than three miles away. Sapphire gained approval despite McDonald's protest.

McDonald also took heat for ordering city inspectors to work overtime re-measuring the distance between the proposed site of another competitive adult venue, Treasures, and a nearby elementary school. When the distance was found to be greater than the minimum allowed, McDonald aided Rizzolo's sister,  the Reverend, Dr. Annette Patterson, in setting up a bogus church across the street to kill the competitor's liquor license. Following a series of news articles about the "pop up church," Rizzolo's sister closed it down, and Treasures gained approval.

Police department statistics indicate that the Crazy Horse received 165 police calls in 1999, 239 in 2000, and 333 in 2001 - more police responses than any other Vegas adult business. The Crazy Horse also recorded 9 assaults and 6 robberies involving bar employees over a two-year-period, but curiously, no arrests were made in any of these instances.

It has also been widely reported that local cops discourage victims of violence from filing police reports against Crazy Horse employees.

Recently, there is the question of why City of Las Vegas Parking Enforcement officers are conducting hourly patrols of the privately owned Crazy Horse parking lot and selectively ticketing and ordering the towing of vehicles belonging to patrons of Buffalo Jim Barrier who owns an auto repair shop next door to the bar.

Barrier is Rizzolo's chief nemesis. The auto shop owner photographed and documented the time of injuries suffered on September 20, 2001, by Kansas tourist Kirk Henry. Barrier's photos, to Rizzolo's dismay, ended up on the front page of a local paper. Henry was allegedly beaten by bar employees after disputing a $90 bar tab. Henry's neck was broken in the incident that rendered him a quadriplegic. A lawsuit is pending in District Court against Rizzolo and his business, though police did not investigate, and no arrests were ever made.

Several years ago, Rizzolo revealed plans to expand his bar, but a long-term lease held by Barrier stands in the way. The validity of the lease has twice been upheld in court causing Rizzolo to look for other alternatives.

Since the expansion was put on hold, city Parking Enforcement officials have been making it almost impossible for Barrier to make a living. In the meantime, city and state officials with possible help from the mayor and McDonald’s council replacement are considering the use of eminent domain to remove Barrier as a possible favor to Rizzolo.

One of Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman's former law firm's most lucrative clients, Nevada Black Book member Joey Cusumano, is a close associate of Rizzolo. Cusumano`s family also owned the villa where former Councilman McDonald resided, and Goodman has been criticized for inviting Cusumano to social events held at his home.

Now with the revelation that two longtime Sin City cops have possibly been compromised, its not hard to imagine that Rizzolo, a man of "ill repute," has possibly influenced many more yet-unnamed Vegas officials in order to gain favors and remain immune from local law enforcement and business license scrutiny.

This embarrassing situation is starting to make national news based on the intervention of federal authorities that are investigating the obvious malfeasance of Vegas officials regarding the generous adult business owner. Reporters working on the story have said that what has been reported so far is just the tip of the iceberg. At least one national TV network news program is planning to expose Vegas' political corruption focused on the Crazy Horse Too investigation.

Vegas, a gambling city, has flourished based on the trust of those who visit here. Now, because of the self serving actions of several city and police officials, that trust is beginning to wane.

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