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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:

The bloodshed finally ends
"I don't consider Rick Rizzolo a human.
I think he's a moron, a thug, a goon."

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
September 11, 2006

LAS VEGAS - On September 6, 2006, the Las Vegas City Council unanimously voted to permanently revoke Rick Rizzolo's liquor license and fine him $2.2 million dollars for condoning twenty years of robberies, beatings, and murders at his Crazy Horse Too.

This, after the skin joint proprietor on June 1 was convicted of income tax evasion, racketeering, and extortion. He's to be sentenced on October 22, and faces up to five years in Federal Prison.
On Friday, Sept. 8, Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian appeared on Jon Ralston's TV program "Face to Face." She said that had Mayor Oscar Goodman chaired the license revocation hearing, he could have turned the vote around "based on his strong personality."

Goodman, a former Mob attorney, has often proclaimed his hatred for the FBI who were responsible for Rizzolo's downfall.

He also often told the press "There is no Mob," and once described his client Tony "The Ant" Spilotro as an "Innocent, misunderstood businessman being persecuted because he has a vowel at the end of his name."

Based on his former profession, it was obvious that Goodman wanted to let Rizzolo off with a slap on the wrist. And the last thing Goodman would allow if he presided over the hearing was to shut down the bar that enriches a number of his law firm's former and present clients.

However, Goodman in 2004 worked overtime to close one of Rizzolo's competitors, Treasures. He conveniently claimed he couldn't vote on the issue because his lawyer son represented the owners, but my City Hall sources told me that Goodman was busy calling the shots from behind the scenes.

As a former Councilman, I knew that he had to be removed from the dias during the Crazy Horse deliberations or his pals would be allowed to continue hurting people, so I went to work.
During my last year in office, I authored the City's Ethics in Government Law. I'm intimitely familiar with its' workings, and with its' cousin, the State Ethics Law. So on July 10, I filed a Complaint against Mayor Oscar Goodman with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

If he's found guilty of my charges, it will be the second time in Goodman's career he's violated State ethics law, and could result in his removal from office. So the writing was on the wall. He had to abstain.
Based on my complaint -- but giving me no credit -- Goodman, on September 6, did abstain and reluctently let Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese preside over the Crazy Horse Too license revocation hearing. But he didn't go without a fight!

His protégé' Tony Sgro wrote three letters in support of letting his mentor preside over the hearing. But even Sgro's letters couldn't sway City Attorney Brad Jerbic who bravely advised Goodman he had a conflict.

Before storming out of the Council Chambers, Goodman let his colleagues know that Rick Rizzolo was "a very close friend," "We attend social events together," "he's contributed generously to my political campaign," and that as Mayor, he had "strong feelings" as to what should occur at the hearing though he wouldn't be there to express them in pubic.
As he turned to leave, Goodman glared at me and Buffalo Jim Barrier sitting in the back of the room. After he left, we took a breath of fresh air.

That's when a miracle happened. Instead of their usual timidness, now under the new leadership of the Mayor Pro Tem, Council members Steve Ross, Lois Tarkanian, Larry Brown, and Steve Wolfson were energized, along with Deputy City Attorney Bill Henry who represented the citizens of Las Vegas.

This occurred even though
Father Dave Casselegio, Rizzolo's personal priest, during the weeks leading up to the hearing, lobbied the Council members asking them to have mercy on his humble parishioner and his band of thugs and thieves.

But even with Divine Intervention, the remaining Council members couldn't be swayed, especially when Deputy City Attorney Bill Henry told them that there had been at least one beating per month between 2000 and 2005!

To Father Casselegio's dismay, Henry compared Rick Rizzolo with Tony Soprano running Bada Bing.

Rizzolo visibly cringed when he heard the comparison.

But I was most disturbed when Rizzolo's attorney Tony Sgro stated that his client had "never been in trouble before."

No one on the Council batted an eye or asked him to explain Rizzolo's 1989 conviction for beating Rick Sandlin almost to death with a baseball bat, and that Sandlin died three years later of his injuries.

This was part of my basis for filing the ethics complaint against Goodman. At the time, he was Rizzolo's criminal defense attorney, and cut a "deal" with then-DA Rex Bell to keep him out of prison.

Another amazing statement made by Sgro was "Don't kick him when he's down," in reference to the Council's ability to revoke the liquor license.

Ironically, Scott David Fau was kicked to death behind the Crazy Horse in 1995 by Rizzolo's goons.

Following the four hour hearing and the unanimous vote of the Council, Sgro filed motions in Clark County District Court asking for a Temporary Restraining Order against the City. It was denied by Judge Mark Denton. Sgro also filed a motion for a Preliminary Injunction to stop the license revocation. That motion will be heard in Denton's court at 9:30 Tuesday morning, but is also expected to fail.

When I first learned Judge Mark Denton was assigned to the case, I did some research to find out whether he had accepted campaign contributions from Rizzolo or his friends.

I searched the Secretary of State's Political Campaign Contribution and Expense Reports for the names Fred Glusman, Bart Rizzolo, Annette Patterson, Ralph Rizzolo, Lisa Rizzolo, Piero's, Ritz, Tony Tegano, Tango Pools, Crazy Horse Too, RicRiz, LLC, RicBar LLC, The Power Company, Inc., Letizia Ad Team, or Fred Doumani.

None were listed. I relaxed.

Chris Christoff drove Buffalo Jim and I home after the triumphant ruling, but we couldn't contain our joy at the thought of having played a part in ending one of the saddest times in Las Vegas history. We asked photographer Mike Christ to take a picture of us celebrating in front of the closed down bar.

For years, Barrier, a former pro wrestler, had suffered at the hands of Rizzolo and his goons.

His auto repair business located next to the topless bar had repeatedly been vandalized including damage to customer's cars left overnight for repairs.

Barrier sued Rizzolo five times in small claims court and won -- collecting damages and towing fees. But that didn't stop Rizzolo from harassing him.

Barrier's air conditioning was vandalized, and his employees threatened. He sued for harassment, and Rizzolo counter sued for defamation.

The harassment jury trial will be held in 2007, but what's most amazing is that Rizzolo, a convicted felon, is still pursuing his defamation action against Barrier, even if he has to testify from prison!

Attorney Sgro claims that Barrier "injured the reputation" of his client by being the first to tell reporters in 1999 that the Crazy Horse Too was engaged in criminal activity.

Rizzolo also sued this writer for libel after I broke the Kirk Henry story. His lawsuit was promptly dismissed, but not before Sgro tried to secure a gag order against me and my publisher.

During the discovery portion of Rizzolo's defamation action against me, Sgro tried to force me to take a deposition, and ask me under oath to identify my sources. Had it not been for the powerful Nevada Shield Law that protects reporters from having to reveal their sources, I would have gone to jail or paid heavy fines for refusing to expose my sources to possible physical retaliation from Rizzolo.

And the legal fees continue to flow into the law firm of Patti and Sgro even though they have lost their client's liquor license and freedom, and screwed up a bonified sale of the club. More on that later.

My best moment came the evening after the Council hearing when I was interviewed on the local NBC affiliate, KVBC Channel 3 News.

After years of frustration writing about Rizzolo getting away with robbing, beating, and killing innocent visitors to his club, I had the chance to tell my town what I actually felt.

Newsman Steve Crupi's story "Crazy Horse Too stripped of liquor license," stated:

"After alleged mob ties, tax evasion charges, and a paralyzed customer, the city council has had enough of the Crazy Horse Too. Now, rather than running his business without a liquor license, owner Rick Rizzolo may decide to shut down. City attorneys say the club is corrupt and has been for years, and former City Councilman Steve Miller says the reason is Rizzolo. 'I don't consider Rick Rizzolo a human. I think he's a moron, a thug, a goon,' said Miller.
Miller says the beating that Kirk Henry received at the hands of a bouncer is just one of the reasons why the club should be shut down.
'And we cannot afford as a community to allow this. I congratulate the city council for their action today in ending this blood bath,' said Miller."

(You can view streaming video of the KVBC story by clicking HERE,  then click "Crazy Horse Too stripped of liquor license.")

During the hearing, Councilwoman Tarkanian talked about why the City had not taken action until now though she had received numerous complaints about violence at the Crazy Horse.

She told the audience that Goodman advised her, "You don't get involved to cause any problems!"

Then Business License Manager Jim DiFiori lied to his Council saying no one had ever requested that the Crazy Horse be brought before the Council to defend its liquor license.

On October 10, 2001, the Las Vegas Tribune ran a front page story asking the City to schedule a Show Cause action against the club.

On October 25, 2001, Mayor Goodman invited me to his City Hall office to discuss a possible Show Cause hearing. There he opened the conversation by saying "I'm not doing any favors for Joey Cusumano," though I did not bring up Mr. Cusumano's name.

Cusumano is a suspected hidden owner of the Crazy Horse; a close friend of Rizzolo and Goodman; a former Goodman Law Firm client; and member of Nevada's Black Book of undesirables.

In 2003, Goodman proudly accepted a $40,000 campaign contribution from Rizzolo. In 2006, the mayor told the Review-Journal: "I like Rick Rizzolo. He goes to Piero's every Thanksgiving and feeds hundreds of needy people. And he treats them with dignity."

In 2002, Steven Dempsey began regularly appearing before the Council every two weeks asking for a Show Cause hearing on the Crazy Horse. Though he's a law school graduate, Dempsey was scoffed at by Goodman, and his pleas ignored.

I also persisted in calling for a Show Cause. On April 26, 2005, the mayor even went so far as to pay a personal visit to my home to try to appease me.
Following our meeting, he not only refused to schedule a hearing, he sponsored two ordinances; one to allow the Crazy Horse to expand; and another to allow it to employ teenage strippers!

But Goodman wasn't the only crooked public official running interference for Rizzolo.

District Attorney David Roger, after accepting, then purportedly returning, $40,000 in campaign contributions from Rizzolo, dropped five LVMPD cases waiting for prosecution against employees of the Crazy Horse. The first day after Roger's reelection in 2006, he plea bargained a felony Trafficking in Controlled Substance charge against Ralph Rizzolo, Rick Rizzolo's brother, down to misdemeanor Possession.

It began to look as though nothing could stop the pay offs, robberies, and beatings.

Enter the FBI!

In 2002, an FBI Organized Crime Strike Task Force set up shop in Vegas. My house was their first stop.

I shared everything I had on Rizzolo, then-Councilman Michael McDonald, DA David Roger, Dist. Court Judge Nancy Saitta, and Mayor Goodman.

That's when the domino effect began. In the meantime, Dempsey and I continued to pressure the rest of the Council to revoke Rizzolo's license before any more Kirk Henry-type attacks occurred. We were ignored by the Council and Goodman's stooge
Jim DiFiori, and the frequency of the beatings increased.

Then the indictments began rolling in. Amazingly, the reports of beatings and robberies did not slow down. It became evident that that was the only way Rizzolo knew to make money. Hence my "moron" remark.

While this was going on, Rizzolo kept on harassing Barrier and his customers. Barrier's attorney Bob Lueck continued winning lawsuits against Rizzolo's lawyer Tony Sgro who continued collecting hefty legal fees from his client.

Rizzolo appealed the small claims court rulings, but District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzelez upheld the lower court decisions. Rizzolo refused to comply with her Order, and to this day is towing Barrier's cars and harassing his customers.

The Wednesday his liquor license was revoked, Rizzolo, per Sgro's bogus advice, refused to stop serving liquor. He illegally served liquor for two more days until the FBI called Undersheriff Doug Gillespie to ask why he wasn't enforcing the law against selling liquor without a license?

I had written an E-Brief to my 10,000 subscribers asking them to call the Undersheriff or e-mail him demanding he shut down the illegal operation. He ignored all complaints until the FBI reportedly made their inquiry.

Within minutes of the FBI inquiry, the Crazy Horse shut down.

Seeing dancers and customers exiting the building, Jim Barrier called the press. Review-Journal photographer
Isaac Brekken caught two of Rizzolo's thugs loading booze into a panel truck. Saturday morning's front page headline stated: STRIP CLUB: Curtain falls on Crazy Horse Too - Rizzolo decides to close as he fights liquor license revocation.

In the meantime, U.S. Federal Court Chief Judge Philip Pro must be watching Rizzolo's bizarre antics as are the rest of Las Vegas' citizens.

Judge Pro warned Rizzolo on June 1 to stay out of trouble until his sentencing, but Rizzolo continues to defy Judge Gonzelez' Court Order and harass Barrier, and for two days defied the City's ruling to stop selling liquor.

His arrogance may inspire Judge Pro to give him more time than the sixteen months his plea bargain stipulated.

And then there's Kirk Henry, the man who had his neck broken by one of Rizzolo's goons on the night of Sept. 20, 2001 over a disputed $88 bar tab.

In his plea bargain, Rizzolo personally guaranteed to pay Henry $10 million dollars for his injuries.

Rizzolo signed documents including one called a
SETTLEMENT RELEASE AGREEMENT that guarantees payment whether the Crazy Horse Too is sold or not. In the event a sale does not occur, the agreement allows Rizzolo's personal assets to be forfeited and liquidated including his homes in Las Vegas, Chicago, upstate New York, Newport Beach, California, and property containing the Crazy Horse Too in Philadelphia.

Since Rizzolo's conviction, the FBI and authorities in Pennsylvania are reportedly looking at Vince Piazza, the licensee of the Philly club.

In January 2006, San Francisco real estate tycoon Luke Brugnara made a verified offer of $30 million cash for the Las Vegas Crazy Horse Too. However, according to sources, Sgro didn't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, so he advised Rizzolo to turn down the offer. He reportedly advised his client that he was going to get him off, and there would be no need to sell the club.

Sgro was dead wrong, and Brugnara has since lost interest.

Now knowing what he knows, Rizzolo might be wise to sue Sgro for malpractice for squelching the only real offer ever placed on the table!

Last Wednesday,
Sgro told the Council that Rizzolo no longer has the financial wherewithal to pay Henry if the Crazy Horse closes --  it must be sold with its' liquor license intact to generate the funds to pay Henry and his lawyers. But he didn't explain how future Kirk Henry-type attacks would be prevented if the present management, albeit, some from behind prison bars, were permitted to continue operating the club with other felons handling the day to day operation (as per Mayor Goodman's wishes).

Councilman Ross countered by saying Rizzolo "amassed a hugh amount of wealth" in the twenty years he owned the club, and "will have to pay one way or another."

Councilman Wolfson also stated that in the Federal plea bargain, Rizzolo had stated he made over $5 million per year since the club opened. He then asked, "Where's the money?"

No mention was made of Rizzolo's psudo-divorce from his wife Lisa when in 2004 he transferred to her the bulk of his
fortune amounting to well over what he owes Henry. He was told by Sgro that doing so would protect him from garnishment and forfeiture. That's not correct. Judge Pro can and should reverse the transfer at sentencing and pay Henry immediately now that the Crazy Horse Too has been rendered unsaleable without the benefit of a liquor license.

Judge Pro on June 1, also ruled that Rizzolo cannot be placed into Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcy.

According to real estate experts, in 2000, Rizzolo overpaid for the 2.64 acre parcel containing the 1960's era converted warehouse containing the strip club and Barrier's Allstate Auto repair.  Two well known real estate experts value the property and building at between $1.7 and $3 million without the liquor license, and Rizzolo has a $5 million dollar balance on his mortgage!

However, his ex-wife -- who he was married to at the time of Kirk Henry's beating -- now has his bank accounts, houses, cars, jewelry, and cash. I'm sure Judge Pro is fully aware of this, and plans to rule the transfers invalid based on their timing right in the middle of a federal racketeering investigation.

Copyright © Steve Miller

(Four of the above photos were taken by photographer Mike Christ

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