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: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com
The life of the party
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
September 12, 2005
A question I'm repeatedly asked by AmericanMafia.com readers is, "When
I'm in Vegas, where should I go to see the mob?" I usually try to be
vague, but lately, two party givers and their restaurants stand out
every time I write about political corruption in Sin City, and the new
mob that I strongly believe has taken over the town's government.
Piero's, Las Vegas
The Ritz, New Port Beach,
It seems to me there's a golden
tying some local and
out of state mobsters to compromised Vegas politicians, crooked judges,
greedy developers, and the FBI. Three posh eateries, two in Sin City,
and one on California's Gold Coast, come to mind.
Billy Walters at city hall (MATTHEW MINARD / LAS VEGAS SUN)
Political polls are taken by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce,
Convention and Visitor's Authority, Nevada Resort Association, LV Board
of Realtors, Steve Wynn, Harrah's, and other big money entities in town
each election season. Its no mystery that these corporations want
advance knowledge of who may soon be deciding their financial fates
from the dais of the Clark County Commission, or Las Vegas City
In 1991, my name appeared on the top of all the polls as becoming the
next mayor of Las Vegas. Unfortunately,
what was so politically promising was about to come to an abrupt and
But in the meantime, I had achieved a 73% favorable rating in a poll
conducted by the Las Vegas Review
Journal. It took over a decade for another elected official to
match me; mob lawyer-turned mayor, Oscar Goodman, after he won his
second term in 2003.
However, I was also hated by the power brokers, but many showed their
hypocrisy by hosting a series of unsolicited fund raising events for my
mayoral campaign at local restaurants frequented by Vegas' cafe society
where I was temporarily the life of the party.
Invitations were printed even before I was informed of the next fund
raiser. My Santa Barbara, California based campaign manager and his
staff planned my schedule so I could continue my councilman duties
uninterrupted. At daybreak, I would receive a faxed printout of that
day's fund raising activities including breakfast, lunch, cocktail
parties, and dinner -- all at Sin City's finest restaurants. There,
between my city hall duties, I met those who up until then despised me.
I was handed un-ask-for checks and cash, sometimes amounting to tens of
thousands of dollars per day. I reported all contributions.
In the meantime, attorneys who wouldn't acknowledge my presence four
years earlier invited me to their plush offices to personally introduce
their clients and their check books. Frank Schreck, the attorney for my
arch enemy Steve Wynn, became an unofficial fund raiser for my mayoral
campaign, once escorting me into his board room to meet a New York
developer who presented me with a check for $10,000. At Schreck's
behest, Wynn even asked me to "do lunch" where he reluctantly slipped
me a check for $7,500 -- chump change by Vegas political contribution
Then there was the dinner party put on by Ed
and Fred Doumani in Izzy Marion's restaurant at the La Concha on
the Strip. There I met some of Vegas' less than well known campaign
After the party, I was approached by the publisher of a weekly tabloid
who tried to hand me $10,000 cash he said was from the proprietor of
several escort services. I turned it down. That same week, I received,
and immediately returned, a generous check from then-fledgling strip
club operator Rick Rizzolo.
Today, the method is the same, only the restaurants, hosts, and
locations have changed. Also, it falsely appears to be easier to slip a
bundle of cash in the pocket of the next mayor, council person, or
commissioner without prying eyes watching.
Laundering unreported cash into local political campaigns is easy in
Nevada. The donor just gives the politico the cash, and the candidate
reports it as a "loan" from his or her personal bank account at a later
date. But that's not all. The money raised at special events such as
those held at posh restaurants is not delineated from other
contributions. The candidate sometimes sits on the checks for a week or
two. That way the dates of deposit won't indicate the money was raised
all in one evening, or where, or by what host. Therefore, the host of
the event is seldom known, or what special interest he represents.
Campaign contribution reports will usually indicate an "In kind"
donation made by the host restaurant, but its usually listed only as
several hundred dollars so as not to raise suspicion. The guest list is
never revealed in state campaign contribution reports.
In the meantime, every effort is made to exclude reporters, and spies
from other camps from attending the special events. In that way, pay
day loan companies, escort services, and certain strip clubs with
illicit business practices, can secure their futures in the local
courts, councils, commissions, constable's office, or even the DA's
Golf course developer Billy Walters is a party giver. His posh
Cili Restaurant on the grounds of the Bali Hai Country Club has been
the scene of lavish fund raisers for many suspect local
politicians, and that may have been the reason he got the sweetheart of
sweetheart deals from the Clark County Commission of
2001. Today, former commissioners Erin Kenny, Lance
Malone, Dario Herrera, and Mary Kincaid Chauncy have either been
indicted, copped a plea, or have been convicted
of political corruption. Kenny pleaded guilty to accepting cash in
exchange for votes. Malone was convicted in San Diego's Operation
G-Sting, The others still profess their innocence and are facing
trial in federal court.
At Cili, like at a Greek wedding, invited guests are often
seen stuffing checks (and possibly cash) into the pockets of Walter's
selected candidates, while gorging on hors d'oeuvres and
champagne. As I said before, the money generated does not have to
coincide with the date of the affair.
In 2001, the Clark County Commission with the help of Malone,
Herrera, Kenny, and Chauncy, gifted
Walters 320 acres of public land at no cost with the understanding he
would build two much needed golf courses. A year later, he returned to
the commission and successfully lobbied to rezone 40 acres of that land
to commercial and office/professional, considered a much more lucrative
use. The golf courses were never built, and last week, the commission
turned over to Walters -- without charge -- the 40 acres where he now
plans to build an upscale shopping center.
In a sweetheart deal, circa the 1999 Las Vegas City Council of
Mayor Jan Jones and Councilman Michael
McDonald, Walters was sold 160 taxpayer owned acres for only
$894,000 to build a golf course. Last month, Walters was back before
the council asking to rezone
the acreage to residential, automatically raising its value to over $50
Michael McDonald was thrown off the council in the election of
2003, but is currently building a $1.5
million dollar house while being the subject of an FBI
investigation of political corruption. He is also spending a lot of
time in Newport Beach, California.
Speaking of Newport Beach, Glusman's Ritz Restaurant
there is the hangout of choice for a new Vegas crowd who own beach side
estates and commute to Vegas from nearby John Wayne Airport. The Ritz,
once off limits, is now under heavy surveillance by people wanting to
know the real inside goings on in our desert town. LV Mayor Oscar
Goodman, Rick Rizzolo, Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn, former Mayor Jan
Jones, and a slew of other Vegas big wigs own properties in nearby
Laguna Beach and other neighborhoods by the sea that are only a thirty
minute biz jet flight from Sin City.
Glusman's son in law is Tom Letizia, Oscar Goodman's
campaign manager and fundraiser. Letizia is also the consummate party
giver in the desert, or near the surf.
Goodman and Letizia
Letizia doubles as the PR man for the Crazy Horse Too strip club
purportedly owned by Rizzolo who is a subject in a federal
investigation of racketeering, and is also a well known campaign
fundraiser. Letizia's local venues of choice are Piero's
and Cili. Other local political fund raisers include Rizzolo's legal
team of Dean Patti and Tony Sgro who have been known to throw
extravagant parties at Rizzolo's Canyon Gate estate in the hills west
of Vegas. These events are mainly attended by judges, and the hoodlum
clients of their law firm.
I often refer on these pages to Clark County District
Attorney David Roger,
and District Court Judge Nancy
Saitta. Both have been recipients of parties thrown by Letizia at
Piero's, and Roger even received a fund raiser held at Rizzolo's LV
estate. Both have been suspected of doing favors for Rizzolo.
In 2003, I worked on the campaign of the woman who
defeated Michael McDonald. McDonald had long been a suspected minion
for Goodman, Rizzolo, and Walters during his two terms on the LV City
Council. During the campaign, I advised my
candidate to stay away from Letizia and Walters. She pledged she
would, but was lying. She also lied to Letizia saying I was not
involved. When we both learned otherwise, it hit the front
"I told her early on that if
Steve Miller is involved with this in any way, then I'm out," Letizia
told Ed Koch of the Las Vegas SUN.
"She assured me that Steve Miller was not involved during the campaign.
She gave me the indication that she never has been involved at any time
After reading this, I received a
call informing me that my candidate had accepted an offer of a Letizia
hosted fundraiser at Cili. My informant told me that Letizia had
pledged to raise $700,000 at the event. I went into action. I hired
several photographers and stationed them on the public streets in front
of the entrances to the Bali Hai Country Club. I then sent an E-Brief
to thousands of subscribers stating that all vehicles entering and
exiting the event would be photographed and their occupants identified
in my next E-Brief.
The event bombed. Instead of
$700,000, the event reportedly generated only $75,000, a far cry from
what Letizia is famous for, and a big let down for my once-loyal
candidate, then a newly elected city council woman. The day after
the event, I received a call from her boy friend, a prominent casino
owner, blaming me for ruining the party. It proved just how paranoid
some of our local political campaign contributors have become if the
mere threat of having their names mentioned by me would thwart their
attending a lavish dinner party.
My contact in Newport Beach is a
regular at the Ritz. He's a high roller, and would never be suspected
of eavesdropping. Here in Vegas, another high roller keeps me
informed of who's schmoozing who at Piero's and Cili. There is no
longer a safe haven for Sin City politicians, and those who buy them
like pigs at an auction.
* If you would like to receive Steve's frequent E-Briefs about Las Vegas'
scandals, click here: Steve Miller's Las Vegas E-Briefs
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com