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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 thrown back into Federal Prison
Debtors aggressively pursue laundered assets.
Ex-wife and stepmother are the next targets.
Cafe near prison may become the new
social club for the Las Vegas mob

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
September 19, 2011

LAS VEGAS - At 2 PM Wednesday, September 15, 2011, Vegas racketeer Rick Rizzolo surrendered to authorities at the Taft Correctional Institution (TCI) in the hot and dusty San Joaquin Valley of Central California 309 miles from Las Vegas for his second prison stay -- this time for parole violations. But he didn't surrender peacefully. True to form, Rizzolo mounted a very expensive last minute legal fight that cost him, or one of his associates, tens of thousands of wasted dollars in attorney fees!

On July 28, Rizzolo's attorneys filed a Ninth Circuit Court Appeal of his July 20 sentencing. Then on September 2, Rizzolo filed a 14 page Emergency Motion to stay his surrender to prison pending the results of his Appeal. On September 7, the United States Attorney filed a Response to Rizzolo's Emergency Motion to stay his surrender. On the morning of September 12, U.S. Judge Philip Pro Denied Rizzolo's Emergency Motion to Stay his surrender. That afternoon, Rizzolo filed a 5 page Emergency Motion for Reconsideration of Order Denying Defendant's Emergency Motion to Stay Surrender. On September 13, Judge Pro promptly Denied Rizzolo's second Emergency Motion to stay out of prison thereby sending him to TCI on schedule two days later.

All together, an attorney told INSIDE VEGAS that Rizzolo's stay-out-of jail legal shenanigans cost at least $20,000 in attorney's fees, money that should rightly go to pay his court ordered debts now totaling over $17 million dollars. And where did Rizzolo get the money to pay his top notch attorneys at Gordon Silver Law Firm at a time when he claims to be broke? Something I'm sure the feds are about to look into.

When Rizzolo served his first ten month prison sentence for racketeering and tax evasion, he had quite a few visitors including regular visits from his ex-wife according to prison records. That's because he was incarcerated in the the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Los Angeles just a four hour drive from Las Vegas, and only 1.5 miles, or a short cab ride from the Millennium Biltmore Hotel described in USA Today; "The grande dame of downtown hotels is the elegant 1923 Millennium Biltmore Hotel..."

Rick's present abode is a lot less convenient than MDC. TCI is located 45 miles from the nearest Hilton, Sheraton, or Marriot in Bakersfield -- a one hour drive from the prison not including the five and a half hours of flying and layover time from Las Vegas.

However, Rick's ex-wife Lisa, or best pals Fred Doumani, Joey Cusumano, Vinny Faraci, Rocco Lombardo, Al Rapuano, attorney Dominic Gentile, and Piero's Restaurant owner Fredde Glusman might find it's a lot more convenient to drive the 5 hours 45 minutes across the Mojave Desert from Vegas and stay in Taft or Maricopa near the prison. Though they may not compare to the Millennium Biltmore, Topper's Motel, Sunset Motel, or the Holland Inn  in Taft are only minutes away from the TCI visiting room. Or the Motel 8 in Maricopa is just 3.8 miles away.

The Holland Inn was described in Trip Advisor; "We stayed in Mariposa last year, which didn't work out very well, and again this year at the Holland Inn, which didn't work out very well either. Old motels don't have to be cruddy places, but they often are. For the Holland Inn, cruddy would be a compliment."

The Motel 8 described in Trip Advisor; "Had to stay here for work because there are no other choices. Maricopa a 'dead' village. Nothing to do. Motel was cheap. Room had basic furnishings all be it mismatched. Bed was soft and worn. Plush carpets were scary. Bath room was clean for a cheap motel. Desk clerk was friendly. I would not stay again if there was a choice." The other motels received similar reviews, but staying near the prison is still better than a two hour round trip drive to Bakersfield!

In stark contrast, while Rick was at MDC Los Angeles, his visitors dined at the Biltmore's Gallery Bar and Cognac Room described in the Beverly Hills Times; " ...shines in upscale finery.  From romanticism felt from the lovely chandeliers, to the divine oak paneling, this is the place to wine and dine...what an amazing spot for a drink in true classic style.  A gracious staff is the key element to what makes this gorgeous and ultra inviting spot such a truly grand enjoyment."

Some Vegas folks may have visited Rick just as a excuse to stay in such lush surroundings.

But all is not lost. In Taft, there's a unique restaurant favored by many TCI visitors, the Chicken of Oz. The eatery owned by Oz Katz is described by Jerry; "Food is great, great evening atmosphere, cooks and waitresses are top notch...highly recommended. Try the Philly, best in Kern County."

Though it may not be Piero's or the Cognac Room, Rizzolo's family and associates will find the Chicken of Oz a comfortable meeting place during their visits. The melancholy rendition of "Somewhere over the rainbow" (music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg) featured on the restaurant's website has been known to bring more than one TCI visitor to tears.

I recommend that Lisa, Fred, Joey, Vinny, Rocco, Al, and Dominic try the Cheese Ravioli, small salad, and garlic bread with chicken breast, only $9.38. Better than anything I've had at Piero's or Glusman's former Newport Beach bistro the Ritz. (Fredde should take culinary pointers from his lonsman Oz Katz.)

Steve: "I got out of the Camp at Taft CI about 3 weeks ago, and while it's all still fresh in my head I wanted to put down what I can to help take away as much of the mystery and the fear of the unknown as I can.

First off, the Camp is a minimum security facility, which means there are no fences or walls, no violent criminals, weirdos, hard core gang members or gangs, or anything like that. Although most of the people there are for drugs (about 70% or so), they are all non violent offenders in there for their first offense, or they have been model inmates who have worked their way down from Low or Medium security facilities. Everyone from Tommy Chong to millionaires to people like me have spent time at Taft. So first off, don't worry about getting in fights, getting raped, having someone take your food or possessions, or anything silly like that. It just doesn't happen!

When you turn yourself in, no matter what your lawyer told you or probation dept, fbi, doj, whoever, bring:

Money! I'd recommend at least $300 for the first month. From there on out you can have someone send you in more money each month. The first month is the most expensive because you'll need to buy the basics, get more clothes and get some semi-real food. You can bring in whatever amount you want to; I've seen people come in with thousands of dollars to put on their books. Bring it either in CASH or a Postal Money Order and that's it. Otherwise it will take a long time for it to clear and get put on your books.

ID (drivers license) and Social Security Card! They will keep them in your file while you're in. If you don't at least bring your ID, they won't take you,

Gray sweats, white socks, white underware/boxers, white t-shirt, mostly white or mostly black shoes! They expect you to come dressed as an inmate when you get there. I know it sounds weird, but they do. I would get a quality sweat bottom and top, and a pair of sweat shorts to wear under them. Just get the normal gray color with little or no logos on them. If they are another color or have too many logos, they won't let you keep them. Also wear a white t-shirt, a white pair of underwear or boxers and a pair of white socks. Any other color then white and you can't keep them. Most importantly are the shoes! Get a new pair of shoes in mostly white or mostly black. Logos are ok as long as it's not too flashy and the shoes are not worth over $100. You'll wear the heck out of your shoes, so get a good pair. Once you're in, it takes up to 2 months to get new shoes! You can also optionally bring in a watch, not worth over $100, and a necklace with a religious item on it (cross, etc.) also not worth over $100.

Prescriptions and Medication! If you are on any prescriptions from your doctor, bring them with you along with any medication you may still have. They will give it to the medical facility on the Camp side so you'll have all your meds once you get there. Pill-call will be explained to you during orientation.

Paper with peoples contact information on it! You can bring in paperwork if you want to, but it has to be just piece(s) of paper, not in a notebook or whatever. I printed out a list of peoples names, addresses and phone numbers and took it with me. Once you're in, rather then having to wait for someone to send you a list, you'll have it so you can get phone numbers added to your phone list of people you can call, and you'll have all the addresses of people you want to write.

If you have any questions, call Taft before you show up!"

          Taft Camp (upper right) is co-located with a medium security prison

            Taft Camp administration building, housing unit, and exercise yard
                                 ( photo by Steve Miller)

Another former Taft inmate offered this advice to Rick:

"Here is where prison really begins. You'll be taken to the R&D area and processed, which involves signing a lot of paper work, having your picture taken for your ID card they give you and talking to a ton of people as part of your intake interview. You'll be taken to medical and have your vitals taken and given a TB test, and asked some health questions. The entire process takes a few hours.

Taft Camp is co-located with a medium security prison. There are around 500 to 550 people at the Camp at any given time, broken into 4 dorms, A, B, C and D (compared to the 12 on the Main Side). You will be assigned to one of those dorms, and once you get there you'll be given some linen for your bed and escorted to your bunk by the CO you got turned over to on the Camp side. You'll grab a mattress (how they can call them that is a crime in itself, lol), go to your bunk and then the CO leaves. Most likely because you're new, you'll be put into a 3 person cube as the 2 people cubes are reserved for people who have been there a while. The cubes are small, like 10x10 and 6 feet high, so it's pretty cramped. The dorm is basically a big open bay with these concrete cubes in 4 rows. They remind me of office cubes, but made out of concrete. There is a gang bathroom, similar to the kind you would see in the military. You have one room with sinks, one with urinals and toilet stalls (yes they are private) and one with showers (also private). There are some TV rooms and a rec room in your dorm to, but most of the time the TVs have something like Jerry Springer, soaps or wrestling on so it's not much to watch. I didn't watch TV at all when I was in.

There is plenty of A/C and heating inside, so you don't have to worry about getting hot or cold. The beds suck, and it'll take you about 3 weeks to get adjusted and get any kind of restful sleep. The food sucks overall, but they do have some Ok meals.

Depending on your crime, your race and how nice your bunkies (cube mates) are, you'll be shown the ropes by someone. If you're Mexican/Hispanic, black, Asian or white, usually someone from your race will show you the ropes and introduce you around to people. They will help you buy what you need, show you where to go and when, and all the other stuff you need to know. Besides this, race isn't much a factor in the camp any more than it is anywhere else. Everyone is friends with everyone else, but like anywhere in the world there will be people you think are jerks. No one wants to get into a fight because of what can happen (going to the hole, being transferred, getting moved to the Low, etc.), so people just avoid people they don't care for.

Don't sweat it, you'll make friends and there are cool people in there. Ages range from 18 to grandpa, with most being in the early to mid 20s and the late 30's to early 40's. Don't be scared to ask questions! Everyone in there knows what it's like to be new, and they go out of their way to be helpful and nice.

Once you get in, within a day or two you'll be able to make your first phone call to the number you put down as your emergency contact number when you inprocessed. You can add more numbers later on, but it takes around a week to get them added. You can start getting and receiving mail right away too. My girlfriend sent me a letter before I left so I got it the second day I was there.

Well besides the everyday life there, that is what you can expect when you get to Taft. It's a hard day for sure when you turn yourself in, and it takes about a month before you get fully adjusted, but you will adjust.

Best of luck."

Rizzolo leaving court on July 20, 2011 with attorneys Dominic Gentile and Margaret Lambrose
after being sentenced to nine additional months in US Federal Prison, a two year extension of
his supervised release, and banishment from all casinos during the term of his parole.
                                                    ( photo by Mike Christ)

Here's a note from a lady who was the mistress of a former Taft inmate:

"Hi Steve:

I read your article and all I can say is OH PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK!

Sending Rick to Taft is like sending them to a resort at Cancun without the Frangelica and Margaritas.

What the hell do you think they do all day?

You know as well as I that all these guys do is plan the next scam, and talk: 'That m-----  f----- son of a bitch.'  'I'm gonna break his f----n' head.' And 'Wait till I get out!'   YADA YADA YADA............

Oh yeah, and the visits are monitored with a video camera, but unless they have lip readers, believe me, plans are being put in place for either moving money around or taking care of their businesses!

And the guys like Rick who owned the strip clubs?  I knew several from South Florida and going away is nothing to them because of all the money they have made and hidden.  And it is hidden!

And as far as being unpleasant for family and friends to visit, it isn't that bad  It (Taft) is a small town and was used as a back drop in a Kurt Russel/Robin Williams movie, and other shoots as well.

Truth be told the few times I visited Taft  I incorporated a trip to the coast, maybe an hour drive.  This is where Carmine Persico is or was, not sure,  I haven't heard from him in years. But I know while he was there he was planting tomatoes, playing in a band and doing all the other typical tasks for wiseguys in security. I just hope Rick gets out and goes straight, but seriously don't hold your breath  It is embarrassing for the families and friends and especially for the kids.

Sorry if I sound bitter, I guess after 16 years of that mob crap, I have had it. Probably why I make fun of it. Oh well! We all make mistakes. Actually (name withheld) and I were never married (smart move on my part). We learn from our mistakes and that was one I learned from." - Name withheld by request

It's probably just a coincidence, but I drive within a few miles of TCI at least twelve times each year on my way to my second home on the Central Coast. On one of my trips in 2007, I visited the prison and took the photo of the exercise yard (above) for an column I was working on. At the time, it was anticipated that Rizzolo, Mike Galardi, and Vinny Faraci were to be sentenced to Taft, but plans changed and they were sent to other facilities.

Back on April 29, 2007, before his first prison stay, with several Appeals and Requests for Reconsideration of his sentence laying on Judge Pro's desk, Rizzolo threw himself a "Farewell Party" at Fredde Glusman's former Ritz Restaurant in Newport Beach, the exclusive Southern California town where the Rizzolo's have a luxurious 3,700 square foot beach house on Ocean Front Drive. Many Vegas and Newport Beach luminaries attended.

IINSIDE VEGAS had someone stationed at the secret Ritz party, and on May 7, 2007, I broke the news of the festivities and gained a reputation for being a real party pooper. The U.S. Attorney informed the court of the party, and on May 21, INSIDE VEGAS told how the party backfired when Judge Pro threw out all of Rizzolo's original Appeals, Requests for Reconsideration, and Motions to Stay his incarceration, and changed Rizzolo's prison location from Taft to the maximum security Los Angeles Federal Detention Center (photo on left).

It appears Rizzolo's arrogance screwed up his first chance of being assigned to the Taft Minimum Security Camp sometimes wrongly called "Camp Granada" (Lyrics by Allan Sherman, Music from Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours") by those who've never been sentenced there.

Taft is plush compared to the downtown LA jail with balconies covered by razor wire where Rizzolo ended up last time. But Taft is totally inconvenient when it comes to visitation. Over the next 9 months, his isolation and the trouble it takes to visit him will let Rick know who his real friends are.

Last week when Rizzolo turned himself in at Taft, it didn't take attorneys for beating victim Kirk Henry much time to shift into overdrive. On the eve of  Rizzolo's incarceration, a Subpoena was issued to Pennsylvania businessman Vince Piazza to force him to appear in Philadelphia for deposition on Sept. 28 to discuss the whereabouts of $3 million dollars he paid Rizzolo for his share of the Philadelphia Crazy Horse Too.

Rizzolo still owes Henry over $14 million in court ordered restitution and interest that he refused to pay which resulted in his additional nine months of prison time and two year parole extension which begins on June 15, 2012 when he gets out.

So far, Piazza has been cooperative with Henry's legal team and Federal Prosecutors in their quest to collect the millions Rick and Lisa Rizzolo owe Henry and the IRS.

In my INSIDE VEGAS column of August 29, 2011, I emphasized that Piazza probably regrets the day he ever met Rick Rizzolo.

Piazza is a highly respected Pennsylvania businessman who owns 11 new car dealerships, and relies on his impeccable reputation to generate new and repeat business. He certainly doesn't need his customers knowing he made a horrendous mistake in judgment by partnering with a mobster, so I doubt Vince will appear on Rick's visitors list at TCI.

Then there's the upcoming legal troubles to which Rick exposed his ex-wife Lisa and stepmother Kim Tran Rizzolo.

Lisa is hiding millions of Rick's ill-gotten dollars and assets in phony off shore bank accounts and trusts put together by a local attorney described by his peers as "scummy."

Scummy because that attorney hid much of the Rizzolo's fortune that was beaten or extorted out of Vegas strip club customers, the reason the City of Las Vegas shut the club down, and why the Feds seized the building and property.

And now Kim Tran is hiding $789,000 that was secretly transferred to her late husband Bart Rizzolo by Piazza as part of the Philly strip club sale. (It's not confirmed that Piazza knew at the time that he was participating in a scam designed so the Rizzolos could avoid paying Henry and the IRS.)

So far, Kim Tran's attorney Herb Sachs filed one Defense document stating: "Any harm allegedly suffered by Plaintiff was caused by persons, firms or corporations other than Defendant."

In other words, Kim Tran Rizzolo didn't personally break Kirk Henry's neck, so she can keep the money. That said, we'll see how long it takes for the Judge to order her to turn over the $789,000 that was court ordered to be paid to Henry.

As a special condition of his sentence, Rizzolo has been ordered to expatriate his ex-wife's off shore stash, or she could possibly face indictment.

While he cools his heals so far from the lights of Vegas and longs for inconvenient visits from friends and family, Rick Rizzolo will have nine solitary months to ponder the harm he's done to Kirk Henry, and is about to do to his ex-wife and stepmother if they try to keep his fortune out of the hands of debtors.

I know I won't be listed on his visitors list, but each time I whizz (no pun intended) by that desolate fortress near Taft on the way to my sanctuary by the sea, I'm gonna think of Rick Rizzolo and the choices he made to put himself, his friends, and loved ones in such harm's way.


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