Old California money shuns Vegas "neuvo riche"
Beware of newcomers
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
December 5, 2005
BEACH, CA.- For the past decade, a group of Las Vegas movers
and shakers have lived part time in lavish beach homes in Laguna
Beach and Newport Beach, California. Those residing in the private
enclaves comprise a list of colorful
expatriates who need complete privacy to conduct their business
especially those dealing with their Sin City fortunes, and the lives of
those who live in Las Vegas full
This privileged group is not subject to the
humiliation of walking barefoot
checkpoints at public airports, or fighting traffic on
I-15 to access their esoteric sanctuaries. Our barons and baronesses
whisk back and forth to the coast in just thirty minutes from private
McCarran International Airport in Vegas, and John Wayne Airport in
Orange County. Both executive terminals are secluded and heavily
guarded to keep out
the general public or snoopy reporters.
I'm quite familiar with such places. I once owned a small charter
service based at McCarran. Though I flew propellor driven
planes, the privacy of
my clients was my foremost goal, including keeping secret their
passenger lists, destinations, and schedules.
Vegas Executive Terminal -
McCarran Airport Atlantic Aviation - John
Sometimes, if I had a good repore with a client and liked where they
were going, I'd take the day off
from office duties, put on a pilot shirt and leather bomber jacket, and
the plane. John Wayne Airport was a regular stop. On
several occasions at Orange County, my passengers asked me to drive
them to their favorite beach side restaurants or shops. (a
generous gratuity usually followed). On those occasions, I was exposed
to the world of the Las Vegas Jet Set -- folks who enjoyed spending
money and bragging:
"I'd like to introduce Steve, my personal pilot." Then I would enjoy a
great lunch or dinner while being completely ignored.
Sometimes, my clients would want to spend the night and fly off to
another destination the following day. On such occasions, they would
put me up in one of Laguna or Newport's finest hotels while paying for
my down time. Those were the days!
Of course, my list of clients is confidential, but it didn't include
those who comprise the current group of beach home owners who
hang out at their own exclusive Fashion Island watering hole where they
call the shots for the future of Sin City, and now wish to pick and
choose the next Sheriff of Orange County.
Built exclusively for them by Vegas restaurateur Fred Glusman (and
a few suspected others), the Newport Beach Ritz was designed to be the
gathering place for
the new Vegas invaders.
Folks including former Mayor Jan Jones, current Mayor
Oscar Goodman, topless nightclub owner Rick Rizzolo, MGM CEO Terry
Lanni, Stations Casino owner Frank
Fertitta, Jr. and COO Blake
Sartini, and Bruce Becker who owns
Becker Gaming Inc., and
their guests make the Ritz a hot spot.
Like my former clients and passengers, the latest crowd covets privacy,
hence their propensity to hang at Glusman's place -- a restaurant too
expensive for snoopy reporters and average FBI agents.
Nonetheless, the Orange County
Register last month Mike Carona. According to the Register, Carona is having a
problem keeping away from mob type characters and folks with
questionable pasts. Guess who were identified as having questionable
pasts? All of a sudden, the Vegas crowd's coveted privacy became a
On November 28, Register columnist
Martin Wisckol identified several of Glusman's best Sin City customers including Rizzolo, Fertitta, Becker, and Sartini. His description
of these men is anything but flattering. In Vegas, these guys are
considered "pillars of the community," and are mostly off
bad press. But in Orange County, a long time resident told me they're
quietly being called
riche," or "carpetbaggers," and are fair game for the local press.
Orange County is the conservative stronghold of mainly liberal
California. Recently, the ultra conservative readers of the Register
were treated to some scandalous, but seldom known information
about Vegas' pillars -- people who represent Sin City businesses with
advertising budgets that for years have kept their executive's names
out of the paper, unless it was for something they approved such as
their generous gifts to charity.
|Carona's colorful cast
of campaign contributors
By MARTIN WISCKOL
The Orange County Register
Monday, November 28, 2005
If Sheriff Mike Carona ever
has cause to bone up on the casino business, he won't need to look
further than his campaign donors. That list includes at least four Las
Vegas entrepreneurs whose businesses have had brushes with the law.
Each has contributed the maximum $1,500 to Carona's re-election bid.
Earlier this month, the Register wrote about Rick Rizzolo, owner of the Crazy
Horse Too strip club. The club is under federal investigation for
racketeering. In 1985, Rizzolo pleaded guilty to attacking a patron
with a baseball bat. Carona adviser Mike
Schroeder tells us that the sheriff is returning that donation.
Frank Fertitta Jr. is
founder and former chairman of Station Casinos. Federal investigations
linked him to a money-skimming operation in 1985, but he was never
charged or sanctioned. Nonetheless, Missouri gaming officials in 1992
refused to issue a gambling permit to Station unless the company
guaranteed Fertitta would have no part in its management, according to
Bruce Becker owns Becker
Gaming Inc., which donated to the sheriff. In 1995, Becker was charged
with 18 misdemeanors for allegedly misleading regulators on an
application for his gaming license, according to published reports. The
charges were dismissed because the one-year statute of limitations had
Blake Sartini is
co-founder and former chief operating officer of Nevada-based Station
Casinos. While he was with that business, Station lost its Missouri
gambling license after other company executives ignored a subpoena to
testify in a corruption probe. Sartini was not called to testify.
Station later paid more than $1 million in fines for several offenses,
including allowing juveniles to gamble.
Schroeder said that Carona knew none of these contributors and that
they apparently had been invited to the same May fundraiser by a Carona
supporter who knew them.
"There's no way we're going to know the background on all these
people," Schroeder said. "Besides Rizzolo, I don't think any of these
guys have been convicted of anything. Give me something about what
they've done wrong, and I'll look at giving their money back."
Copyright 2005 The Orange County Register
Our elite aren't so elite
in Orange County:
The old money in Orange County came from
agriculture nurtured by multiple
generations of native Californians,
and later from the sale of thousands of acres of orange groves that
were converted into expensive housing and high tech industry. Today,
the down-to-earth folks who turned their soil into profitable real
estate so their offspring could later flourish during the dot-com era,
are less than accepting of carpetbaggers
from Vegas who made their fortunes off slot machines sucking
old lady's pensions, or strip joints ruled by goons with baseball bats.
It was the Orange County Register
that first exposed Ocean Drive homeowner
Rick Rizzolo's conviction
for felony battery with a baseball bat. Since then, questions are being
asked around Vegas law enforcement circles as to why Rizzolo is still
in possession of a privileged business license? Not only was he
convicted of a felony, but he kept it a secret from Vegas liquor
licensing authorities for over twenty years! Still, no public official
in Nevada has had the guts to
take action, though his sordid background has become the talk of the
town in parts of Southern California.
(AmericanMafia.com photo by Mike
On April 26, 2005, Mayor
Oscar Goodman made a surprise first-time visit to my home.
Coincidentally, just one day earlier, Goodman's former client,
Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, was indicted in connection with 18 murders. Lombardo is a suspected hidden
owner of Rick
Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too strip club. In the street, I scolded
Goodman for protecting his former clients at
the blood soaked bar. Goodman's excuse for not taking action
against Rizzolo's license? "I can't take action in the middle of a
federal investigation." However, one year earlier, on March 4, 2004,
the city council fined Crazy Horse competitor Jack Galardi
one-million dollars in the middle of a federal investigation!
Could his stubborn refusal to stop the
Crazy Horse carnage be the result of concern for his personal
safety, or fear of other
retaliation from one or more of his murderous former clients? Or is
just paying them back for helping start his criminal defense attorney
career? Meanwhile, since his mysterious visit, bar patrons continue to
be extorted, beaten, and robbed.
Rick Rizzolo is well known
for his mob associations, and his ability to
with respected casino owners and politicians. The shocker came
the Orange County Register
revealed for the first
time that he was a convicted felon! That had been an amazingly well
kept secret in Vegas until the Register's
also surprised to
read about Fred Glusman's strange behavior in Newport Beach. Fred's
Piero's in Vegas is a known mob
, but Fred mainly keeps to himself -- at least around Sin
City. However that's not the case in Newport Beach. According to a
November 14 story
in the Register
, Glusman, an
Orange County Sheriff's Reserve Officer -- and major campaign donor to
Sheriff Mike Carona -- resigned
allegations that he flashed his badge during a July 4 dispute over a
"The 'badging' incident involved a hard-to-find parking spot last
Fourth of July outside a coffee shop at Island and West Balboa,
according to Newport Beach police Sgt. Bill Hartford. The shop owner
flagged a traffic-control officer to complain that Glusman had parked
in a customer-only spot. Hartford said Glusman showed a badge, which the shop owner took
were exchanged. Some were unpleasant,' Hartford said. A patrol officer
arrived, gave the badge back to Glusman and instructed him that he
could not park on private property. No report was taken, but Hartford
said he pieced together the incident after talking with the officers
involved. Sheriff's officials said a written complaint was received by
their department and an internal probe was immediately launched,"
according to investigative reporters
Saavedra and Chris Knap.
This incident and Glusman's subsequent "resignation" again proves how
intolerant Orange County residents are to Vegas-style shtick. And after
the embarrassing story hit the morning paper, Sheriff Carona vehemently
denied selling badges to his campaign contributors -- a charge often
leveled by his political enemies.
However, the Register's
revelation of Glusman's cop fetish, and Rizzolo's criminal conviction,
didn't prepare us for their expose' on Fertitta, Becker, and Sartini.
The rest of the story:
In 1976, Frank Fertitta, Sr., the father of Frank, Jr., bought the
off-Strip Bingo Palace with a partner, Carl
Thomas. The casino later became known as the Palace Station.
Both Thomas and Fertitta had other jobs at the time. Thomas was chief
executive officer of four casinos owned by the Argent Corp., where he
brought Fertitta in to be general manager of the Fremont.
But Thomas also had other partners including "Nick" Civella and
Carl "the Cork" Civella, brothers and bosses of the La Cosa Nostra
chapter in Kansas City. In the 1980s, federal prosecutors charged that
Thomas, the Civellas and
others conspired to skim money from Argent casinos. After a 1985 trial
in Kansas City, a dozen defendants were convicted.
Thomas, who by then was serving a 15-year sentence for a skimming
conviction in a related case, testified against his former partners in
return for immunity from prosecution.
In his testimony, Thomas did not implicate Fertitta, Sr. who had bought
Thomas' interest in the Bingo Palace when the skimming charges first
surfaced. The price he paid for the thriving casino was reportedly only
Fertitta, Sr., has consistently denied any involvement, and never was
indicted or charged. His casino empire, Stations Casinos, has since
be one of the largest casino operations in Nevada operating thirteen
properties in Nevada and one in Northern
Because of Station's generous political campaign contributions combined
those of Harrahs, no politician in Nevada (with the exception of former
State Senator Joe Neal
has dared suggest that Nevada based companies with California holdings,
increased gross Nevada gaming taxes for the privilege of sucking
profits and gaming tax revenue
Laughlin, Downtown Las Vegas, Reno, or Tahoe -- areas that have been
directly impacted by California gaming.
Stations' Thunder Valley Casino and Resort located outside Sacramento,
California has devastated casinos in Lake Tahoe and Reno, and is
seriously impairing our northern Nevada tax base. Harrah's
Rincon Casino and Resort
in Valley Center, California has also
devastated the Laughlin, Nevada tax base. However, Stations and Harrahs
extra-Nevada exploits are never mentioned when Nevada's tax shortfalls
Frank Fertitta, Sr. also had a daughter, Delise
Fertitta, who married Blake Sartini. Blake is the son of the late
When I served on the Las Vegas City Council,
I called for an investigation of the
Arthur Sartini was the agency's executive director. My efforts led to a
federal investigation. The public housing agency in the late 80's was
accused by H.U.D. of bilking tenants and converting funds. Millions of
were unaccounted for. Sartini, who employed
a number of family members at
the public agency
including his first cousin, brother in law, son Blake, and daughter
Julie, suddenly left his position under
cloud of suspicion
after 23 years at the helm.
The millions were never recovered and the agency soon fell on hard
times -- boarding up hundreds of desperately needed public housing
units. No one was convicted of a crime.
and Blake Sartini together with the Fertittas control about 28 percent
of Stations stock and about 50 percent of Stations outstanding
options. The couple spends much of their time at their Laguna Beach
Bruce Becker with his father Ernie and brother Barry, started
Becker Gaming with the first neighborhood casino ever built in Las
Vegas. To the dismay of thousands of nearby
homeowners including hundreds who attended the 1986 city council
meeting in protest of "Arizona Charlie's," the Beckers received
permission to build a obtrusive hotel and casino in the middle of a
bedroom community on Decatur Blvd., miles
from the Strip or Downtown.
The mayor at the time, Ron Lurie,
spearheaded the highly controversial zoning and licensing. After
leaving office four years later, he accepted a high paying job as a top
executive with the company. Since Arizona
Charlie's opened, the taxpayers have had to shell out millions of
increase sewage capacity, widen roads, and fight crime in the close-by
neighborhood that rapidly fell into a state of disrepair.
But what bothered many Vegans most was that Arizona Charlie's
was placed within walking or rolling distance of two of the city's
poorest public housing facilities, James Downs Towers, and Arthur
Sartini Gardens (Yes, they named a facility after him). Today, persons
living on public assistance make up the
majority of patrons at Arizona Charlie's, while former Mayor Ron Lurie
stars in TV
commercials luring the poorest of the poor into the casino that runs
specials on the days just before and after welfare and Social Security
checks arrive in the mail.
Another Las Vegas expatriate, former Mayor Jan Jones
is now a part time Newport
Beach resident. She is also Vice President of Harrah's Entertainment.
Her job? Promoting competitive-to-Nevada casinos, though she's still
considered one of Las Vegas' leading citizens.
Why Las Vegas is in the dark:
Stations and Harrah's Casinos combined buy tens of millions of
dollars per year in
local TV and print ads. Arizona Charlie's Decatur and its sister
property on the Boulder Highway are also no slouches in the advertising
department. What TV news department or publisher would want to bite the
hand that feeds it by insulting executives from several of Las Vegas'
As with many other Sin City sacred cows, its amazing how a generous
ad budget can beget anonymity when it comes to adverse news coverage of
the activities of some of our town's biggest spenders. That's why three
hitting articles in one of Southern California's largest newspapers
have yet to be mentioned by any mainstream Las Vegas news media outlet.
Its as if local reporters, all of whom receive copies of the Register articles and columns,
have buried their heads in the sand.
Though this story doesn't register a blip on the Sin City radar
screen, the citizens of Orange County have much to be concerned about
based on the backgrounds of several of their new residents. But one
thing stands out. Orange County can rest assured their
watchdog newspaper is paying close attention to the fascinating Vegas
newcomers who arrive bearing gifts.
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