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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 Fix Was In!
Crazy Horse Too granted permanent liquor license even after
Police and City Attorney tell Council the mob is still in control

          Mayor glares at photographer Mike Christ

"A reasonable person could draw the conclusion that Signorelli is simply running the business for Rizzolo, who is forbidden to do so." - Sgt. Ray Alexander, L.V.M.P.D.

"Mr. Signorelli may be doing his best effort to keep Rizzolo out, but it's happening anyway." "He can't run this business without being influenced by Rizzolo's people." - City Attorney Brad Jerbic

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
April 23, 2007

LAS VEGAS - At the outset of last Wednesday's City Council hearing on the permanent licensure of the mob-run Crazy Horse Too topless bar, Mayor Oscar Goodman complained to City Attorney Brad Jerbic that he "didn't understand" why he must abstain, then he stormed out of the room.

Jerbic didn't need to explain that the Mayor's law firm represents the past and present owners of the bar. Or that Goodman was once Rick Rizzolo's Corporate Agent, and defended the recently convicted felon and Crazy Horse owner in 1989 after Rizzolo pleaded guilty to beating a man named Rick Sandlin with a baseball bat. Goodman did a good job. Rizzolo got off with a gross misdemeanor and no jail time, and Sandlin died of his injuries three years later. (The case was sealed until 2006.)

That was the beginning of a long friendship, something well known to the two FBI Political Corruption Unit Special Agents watching from the back of the room.

The Mayor left for the majority of the hearing only to suddenly return when it looked like the Council was about to close his client's troubled business once and for all.
Two hours after the license hearing began, Goodman was seen re-entering the small room located behind the City Council dais; a room where two Council members at a time were being served sandwiches during the extended hearing. It appeared that each Council member got a mouthful of sandwich and an earful of Goodman in that back room because the Council immediately stopped asking questions and made a sudden about face to reluctantly grant straw man Mike Signorelli the permanent license as Goodman returned to his seat on the dais and silently watched.

Just before the vote, Goodman turned and glared at photographer Mike Christ who captured the moment on film and later said, "His expression was worth a thousand words."

Goodman was featured in the movie Casino. He played himself; the mob lawyer who represented Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal played by Joe Pesci and Robert DiNiro. He has never stopped playing that role when it comes to his law firm's former and present clients, and a number of persons associated with the Crazy Horse Too were/are Goodman's clients including Signorelli who is represented by Goodman's law partner Jay Brown, and Vinny Faraci who is represented by Goodman's other partner David Chesnoff.

Oscar Goodman is presently the most powerful politician in our city having just emerged victorious from his third mayoral election. He's known for his campaign fund raising ability whether for himself or his colleagues on the Council. Running unopposed, he garnered only 32,492 votes from a total of 214,276 registered city voters in one of the lowest voter turnouts in our city's history. His reelection was far from the mandate he claims, and his antics are looked down upon by the majority of people in Las Vegas.

When you factor in the entire population of the Las Vegas Valley - 1.8 million, Goodman
won by less than a quarter of one percent of the people who call "Las Vegas" home. (The Las Vegas Valley is made up of the City of Las Vegas, parts of unincorporated Clark County, Henderson, Boulder City, and North Las Vegas.) Yet, Goodman and his cronies are the current image of Vegas' "What happens here stays here" persona, and his third and final term in office is expected to be pay back time for those who made him rich including Goodman Law Firm clients Rick Rizzolo and golf course developer Billy Walters.

Walters has plans to return this summer to ask Goodman and his Council to approve what has been called "Septic Gardens;" thousands of low income houses waiting to be built just across the wall from the city's sewer plant.
Goodman has already vowed to help his former client win approval no matter the health risks for those who end up living next to a plant that can emit toxic amounts of hydrogen sulfide in the event of a break down.

Both Rizzolo and Walters paid Goodman legal fees in excess of one half million dollars each prior to his election in 1999. Walters secured his legal fees with his personal residence.

In other words, since the Mayor's tenure is limited to three terms, Goodman has nothing to lose by helping his friends at the expense of tax dollars and public safety. But his honeymoon may soon come to an abrupt halt. The two FBI Special Agents left Wednesday's hearing with enough material to bust City Hall wide open.

         Mike Signorelli and Jim DiFiore
        ( photo by Mike Christ) 
The Crazy Horse Too vote happened after Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese asked City Director of Business Activity Jim Difore why he hadn't closed the topless bar after it was discovered Signorelli was employing a number of Rick Rizzolo's relatives and felons who were banned from the club.
DiFore replied,  "Mr. Signorelli came to me for advice on key employees looking for somebody he trusted."

Councilman Reese then asked DiFore, "You allowed them to work at the Crazy Horse Too?"

DiFiore replied, "Yes."

The other Council members sat in silence while Councilman Steve Wolfson praised DiFiore for a job well done.


Last November, after I informed the City Attorney that Rizzolo's family was still running the club, the Council with Goodman abstaining, bravely banned all Rizzolos from the Crazy Horse property and named a number of additional persons who should be barred including several that DiFore allowed to remain employed.


At Wednesday's hearing, City Attorney Jerbic stated that Mr. DiFore "did nothing." Then Jerbic said, "I did not advise Business License to do nothing."


After this exchange and the pleas from Metro cops, it appeared the Council in Goodman's absence was leaning toward closing the trouble plagued Crazy Horse Too once and for all -- that's until Mayor Goodman arrived in the back room and things took a drastic turn.

The first real indication that something was wrong came when Councilman Wolfson began debating with City Attorney Jerbic. No one came to Jerbic's defense, so Wolfson, a criminal defense attorney, did his best to tear Jerbic's presentation apart item by item.

Then without making a disclosure or abstaining, one of the Council members got up and walked out of the hearing before the vote on Item 66.

Interim Councilwoman Brenda Williams had been heard earlier in the week siding with Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian saying the Crazy Horse liquor license should not be granted.

During the hearing, Williams went into the back room for a sandwich and never returned. When it came time to vote, Williams was gone, but conveniently returned for the next agenda item.

Evidently she thought by simply walking out on the hearing she could avoid offending her constituents or Tarkanian who wanted to see the Crazy Horse saga come to an end. Or more important, she could avoid offending Goodman. So she took a powder.

Unfortunately Williams may have violated the Nevada Ethics in Government Law which contains Opinion No. 03-40:
"Public officers are the voice of and accountable to their constituents [see, Woodbury Opinion]. Therefore, when not prohibited from voting on a matter, a public officer has a duty to act on all matters that come before him."

Now she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't, because if Williams can't come up with a good excuse for walking out on Item 66 -- then her sudden return to vote on Item 67, there are people talking about filing an Ethics Complaint against her.

Had she had the courage to participate and vote, there may have been two negative votes -- possibly three if another Council member joined in. In the case of a tie vote on an even numbered board (remember the Mayor abstained), Nevada law states the negative votes win.

The remaining Council members sat silent after Williams' surprise departure, so the vote was taken and the suddenly-timid Council voted unanimously to let the Crazy Horse continue in business. Without William's support, even Tarkanian voted to help the mob.

It's not as if they were uninformed. I've been sending regular emails and faxes to each Council member informing them of Signorelli's financial problems, criminal associations, and his insistence on bribing cabbies in violation of state law.

Councilwoman Tarkanian even visited my home several months ago to ask questions about Signorelli and the Crazy Horse. She also called Buffalo Jim Barrier last Monday to reportedly say there was consensus on the Council that the Crazy Horse should be closed.

After Wednesday's hearing, Barrier received a second call from the Councilwoman reportedly apologizing for what happened.

After the vote of confidence, Signorelli breathed a sigh of relief and left the chambers followed by a gaggle of lawyers and well wishers who looked like the cast of "Goodfella's."

Of special interest was Goodman's law partner Jay Brown who represented the Crazy Horse at the hearing.


Brown, shown with Signorelli in this Review-Journal photo by Clint Karlsen, had his name surface in organized-crime investigations, and was Rick Rizzolo's original corporate agent along with Goodman.

My revealing his partnership with Goodman and his alleged mob connections in these columns may have inspired Brown's angry words directed toward me Wednesday in the hall outside the Council Chambers.

Or it may have been something else I did last Tuesday evening.

Brown interrupted me while I was speaking with Las Vegas SUN and Review-Journal City Hall reporters Mark Hansel and David Schwartz. The loud comment he repeated twice; "I thought you were an old family friend," probably meant I was doing something "old family friends" shouldn't do -- go against an old family friend in his quest to help the mob keep control of the Crazy Horse. (Brown's daughter went to high school with two of my children.)
His words would have been accurate if he was referring to the family of the late Joe Kludjian, one of my true old family friends.
Joe sold the Golden Steer Steakhouse to Mike Signorelli in 2002. Signorelli began welching on his obligation to pay the Kludjians $10,000 per month five months prior to Joe's passing on April 4, 2006.

I believe the stress of not being paid hastened my old family friend's death.
Joe, who owned the Golden Steer since 1959, spoke to me about the situation in the winter of 2006 and asked for my assistance in obtaining his children's inheritance and a new lawyer because he felt his present attorney, Tim Cory, was asleep at the switch. At the time I was at a loss for suggestions, but I promised to do my best. Joe died several months later.

On the night before the Council hearing, Joe's daughter Judy Kludjian contacted me and said Signorelli was delinquent 17 payments! I advised her to contact Mayor Pro Tem Reese via email. She did, and according to her new attorney: "It is our understanding that Mr. Signorelli had to bring the Golden Steer current before they would issue him a liquor license for the Crazy Horse." 
Sources say Signorelli was forced to hand deliver a certified check for $170,000 to Ms. Kludjian's attorney as an unofficial condition of his approval. It's not known where he got the money.

Had she not sent the email, I believe Signorelli would have continued to welch on his obligation to pay for the restaurant he calls his - a restaurant that's become a favorite watering hole for the new Vegas mob. (Signorelli's original partner in the Golden Steer was Sorkis Webbe Jr.,
who went to prison in the 1980s for vote fraud, obstruction of justice, attempted extortion, and harboring an organized crime figure accused of murder.)
During the Council hearing, Signorelli said he'd invested over $500,000 in the Crazy Horse Too. I now believe he was including the $170,000 he tried to screw the Kludjians out of. I've asked the Kludjians to let me know if Signorelli ever again welches on his obligation to pay for the Golden Steer.

And coincidentally, Signorelli admitted to also welching on his rent to Rizzolo. He paid only a fraction of the $400,000 per month rent on the Crazy Horse since taking over in October. Jay Brown described it as a "rent deferment," but the Council said they'd not been informed of such an important alteration to the Council approved agreement and should have been informed immediately. Nonetheless, his lax credit history, association with known felons, and failure to inform the Council still didn't influence their vote.
Signorelli was described by Jay Brown as being "credible" and having an excellent reputation in the Las Vegas community since 1969.

But 82 year old Nick Steffora says Mike Signorelli is a bankruptcy artist.
Steffora says in 1982, Signorelli was his business partner and bilked him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars after declaring bankruptcy. He sued Signorelli in Federal Court, but said he never received a dime.  
After his first bankruptcy in 1983, Signorelli opened the Mesquite Star Casino in June 1998 and went bankrupt one year later. Then he was sued by over one hundred of his employees for allegedly looting their pay checks of health insurance premiums.

Brown neglected to tell the Council this important information, and no one dared ask questions though each Council member received a hand delivered copy of INSIDE VEGAS several months ago telling the entire story of Signorelli's checkered financial past.

I knew the fix was in when the Council was too squeamish to question Signorelli even after he falsely bragged he once was the CEO of a company that employed 4,600 employees, and that he had a $150 million dollar commitment from investors!  What investors? Nobody asked.<> 

In October 2006, Steffora confronted Signorelli outside the Council chambers after he received his first temporary liquor license. Buffalo Jim Barrier stood by to make sure the confrontation did not turn ugly.

Last Wednesday, Steffora returned to City Hall and picketed outside the Council chambers throughout the Crazy Horse hearing.

Nick Steffora, right, confronts Mike Signorelli, as "Buffalo" Jim Barrier looks on.
Steffora is a former partner of Signorelli. (Review-Journal photo by Clint Karlsen)

Just before the vote, Mayor Pro Tem Reese suggested that conditions be attached to the approval of the permanent liquor license: that the club have new owners by June 30, the date Federal Court Chief Judge Philip Pro ruled the club must be sold; and that no infractions of law take place until that date.

After June 30, I guess anything goes.

Even knowing he let banned people run the Crazy Horse, the Council still wanted DiFiore put in charge of overseeing the club, and empowered him to shut it down upon noticing the slightest of infractions, at least through June 30.

in February 2005, the Las Vegas City Council ran into a road block when they tried to place conditions on the approval of a permanent liquor license for Treasures Gentleman's Club -- conditions similar to those just placed on the Crazy Horse. Treasures was Rizzolo's closest competitor, and in 2000 he had Michael McDonald, one of his minions on the City Council, try to kill their zoning.

That year, after he was questioned on the record, Mayor Pro Tem Reese stated conditions placed on a permanent liquor license were "things we couldn't enforce anyway," and didn't further press the issue (LV SUN).

Why then did the Council persist in placing conditions on the Crazy Horse permanent liquor license when such conditions according to Reese's own statement are a thing the Council couldn't enforce? Was it just for effect -- to show the public the Council has guts?

Buffalo Jim Barrier and I sat in the back of the chambers watching the spectacle unfold. In Las Vegas, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

In 2005, DiFiore obediently camped out at Treasures waiting for an infraction to occur so he could shut the club down to please his boss Oscar Goodman who was doing a favor for his friend Rizzolo.

After many nights of observing, DiFiore finally learned a dancer told an undercover police officer that she would meet him later if he paid her for sex. DiFiore jumped into action and promptly shut the club down.

The Crazy Horse Too's biggest competitor had gone dark according to plan!

Several months later after the dancer was found innocent in Municipal Court because she didn't show up to be with the undercover officer, Treasures' owners sued the City in Federal Court. Seeing a loss on the horizon, the Council reluctantly granted Treasures a permanent liquor license, and that's when Reese proposed placing conditions including that all the dancers go through a mandatory training, and that dancers go by their real names.

Attorneys for Treasures promptly told the Council their client "cannot accept a formal condition that requires them to do what others are not required to do." That's when Reese said conditions were "things we couldn't enforce anyway."

Today it's doubtful that Jim DiFiore will spend as much time monitoring the Crazy Horse. And if he does find an infraction of law, will he immediately shut the place down as he did Treasures? It's doubtful since conditions can't be enforced, and Brad Jerbic did tell the Council on Wednesday, "we're not baby sitters."

Also, it's yet to be determined if beating victim Kirk Henry will ever get one cent of the nine million dollars Rizzolo owes him for having his neck broken for disputing an $88 bar tab. The Henry tragedy has pretty much faded from view.

Fred Doumani Jr. observes Council vote
 ( photo by Mike Christ)

Now the ball is in U.S. Federal Judge Philip Pro's court.

Let's see if Judge Pro accepts the purported buyers of the Crazy Horse Too on June 2 when he's scheduled to either accept a buy out, or put the business and property into receivership.

Reliable sources tell me that one of the buyers may be Fred Doumani Jr., the son of a Rick Rizzolo associate.  Doumani was in the audience last Wednesday and was pointed out on the record by Jay Brown as being the highly reputable guy who introduced Rizzolo to Signorelli less that a year ago. (Witnesses report that Rizzolo was often seen dining with Signorelli since 2002.)

Brown's introduction of Doumani indicated he wants the Council to be familiar with the part time movie actor who may soon replace Rick Rizzolo as the boss of the Crazy Horse Too.

What other characters with close ties to Rizzolo, et. al., are waiting in the wings to seek Judge Pro's approval to continue the status quo? We'll know on June 2nd.

This story is far from over.

Mike Signorelli listens to City Attorney Brad Jerbic

            ( photo by Mike Christ)

According to City Attorney Jerbic, "There is a desperate willingness to keep the old regime."

As Signorelli looked on in horror, Jerbic continued, "Persons associated with Rick Rizzolo are trying to infiltrate the club."

"The former owner is bound and determined to keep people close to him employed."

While I watched Jerbic almost fall on his sword, I couldn't help but wonder why this same former owner was not in jail for contempt of court after ducking out on five depositions in a civil harassment law suit?

Could Rizzolo have that much juice? But that question was asked in last week's INSIDE VEGAS, and the answer is becoming clear.

And when Sgt. Ray Alexander of Metro Special Investigations told about a man named Charles Platz (sp) occupying Rick Rizzolo's personal office and telling undercover officers he was a partner in the Crazy Horse, the Council didn't raise an eyebrow.

Nor did they when Alexander said his investigation could not verify that Signorelli had secured the $45 million he said he had to purchase the club.

The Council just voted in lockstep as Goodman and his mob cronies watched their every move.

At that moment it became painfully clear why this town is called Sin City.

If you would like to watch this amazing hearing on streaming video, click here, then slide the dial to 2:47.
Copyright © Steve Miller

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