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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:

Holiday at Alcatraz...
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
January 12, 2004

                                      "Broadway" (Photo by Jerica Barrier)

ALCATRAZ, CALIF. - I had to see for myself. Over the years, I've become very curious why several of Las Vegas' "pillars of the community" immerse themselves in the sordid history of some of our nation's most notorious criminals - in one instance to the extent of erecting a glorious shrine to preserve the memory of Al Capone - a shrine seen only by a select few.

"You are greeted by framed prints of famous gangster movies (Casino, Goodfellows, etc.) Upon entry, the visitor is treated to a virtual 'shrine' of organized crime memorabilia and mob photos.  A 'limited edition' Leroy Neiman painting of Al Capone sits directly behind the 'original' barber's chair that Al Capone used in his office in the south side Chicago hotel he used as his headquarters. To the side of his desk, your host proudly displays (angled nicely for the visitor to see) a framed 8 by 10 photograph of his 'rabbi' Joey Cusamano.  Scattered around the banquet size office are additional posters from some of his favorite gangster movies (the Godfather, Little Caesar and others). If the guest is fortunate enough to be invited to escort his host around the topless club the first time of the night, when he enters the room, he can witness every single floor man he comes in contact with, come up to the Boss and respectfully kiss his cheek. If you wanted to be a soldier for this leader, what would you do when some customer has the nerve to refuse to pay tribute to your leader's sanctuary or one of his 'broads?' I'm only surprised that they don't wear spats with their tuxedos and brass knuckles." - Author's name withheld by request

The above is an eyewitness description of Rick Rizzolo's Las Vegas office located within the Crazy Horse Too "Gentleman's Club," a rough and tumble skin joint located not far from the Strip that has been the recent scene of beatings, shootings, robberies, and a possible murder. Rizzolo's bar is presently under investigation by the FBI and IRS for being the suspected front of a new Las Vegas Mob.
      Rizzolo                      Mike Galardi                         Dario Herrera          Cusumano and Goodman            Attny. Rick Wright and Mike McDonald

Rizzolo has long been accused of influencing local politicians and law enforcement officials to cover up what federal investigators suspect is a front for organized crime. On Thursday morning, February 20, 2003, eighty Federal Organized Crime Task Force agents busted into Rizzolo's Industrial Road office. They seized computers, documents, financial records, ATM machines and video tapes. There, they also saw for themselves the extent of the skin merchant's collection of Mob memorabilia. One Task Force agent who asked not to be identified described the nightclub located a few steps from Rizzolo's plush office: "When the bright lights went on, it was filthy, a real pig sty."

Following the raid on Rizzolo's joint came another on the topless bars of Mike Galardi. Galardi later pleaded guilty to bribing several Clark County Commissioners including former Commission Chairman Dario Herrera, former Commissioner and LV cop Lance Malone, and current Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey. All pleaded innocent after being indicted by the Federal Grand Jury.

Another politician who is under investigation for his ties to Rizzolo and Galardi is recently dumped LV Councilman Mike McDonald. McDonald lived rent free in a half million dollar golf course villa owned by the family of Nevada Black Book member Joey Cusumano, a close associate of Rizzolo. Cusumano is suspected of having hidden ownership in the Crazy Horse.

Councilman McDonald was often accused of doing Rizzolo favors -- that's until photos of his free digs appeared in my LV newspaper column causing to him to move out. Cusumano is also a close friend and former law firm client of Sin City Mayor Oscar Goodman who has been accused on these pages of doing Rizzolo favors, and whose law partner is being considered for the job of  defense attorney for Mike Galardi.

"I'm ready, willing and able to help anyone who wants to fight the government," stated David Chesnoff, Goodman's law partner, in the January 8 Las Vegas SUN. A fascinating comment from someone very close to the Mayor of a city trying to tone down its "Sin City," "What happens here, stays here" image.

On Wednesday, January 7, 2004, Mayor Goodman fined Rizzolo's main competitor Cheetah's, a topless bar owned by Jack Galardi, one point one million dollars for the illegal actions of Jack's estranged son Mike Galardi. However, Goodman and his City Council continue to ignore more severe problems at the Crazy Horse -- possibly because of Goodman's ties to Rizzolo's "best friend in the world," Joey Cusumano.

During  the Show Cause Hearing on Cheetah's, Goodman neglected to mention that the nearby Crazy Horse alone had been responsible for 737 police calls in just three years including nine assault and six robbery cases involving Crazy Horse employees. In comparison, Cheetah's recorded minimal police calls in recent years though on Wednesday they still came within a 2 - 2 vote of permanently losing their liquor license  - something that would have greatly benefited Rizzolo's bar just across the tracks.

Because of his inequitable actions, Goodman is subject of increasing rumors he may also be a target in the federal political corruption probe dubbed "Operation G-Sting."

Then there was the case of recently demoted LV Metro Police Sergeant Tom Keller who was punished by Clark County Sheriff Bill Young for "consorting with persons of ill repute," a remark directed toward Rick Rizzolo. Young went on to say, "I find it improper when a (police) employee takes a loan from someone in a highly regulated, controversial business with no intention of paying it back."

But that's not all. On Wednesday, January 7, 2004, a member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board had this to say in the Las Vegas Review Journal about Rizzolo when his name came up during a hearing on the suitability of the buyers of the Las Vegas Golden Nugget: "'I'm very familiar with Mr. Rick Rizzolo,' said (Bobby) Siller, a former FBI special agent in charge of the bureau's Las Vegas operations, who lectured Poster on the importance of steering clear of people with unsavory reputations. 'People such as you, very successful, very young, are considered marks. People in organized crime try to set you up, to get some of your funds. And I think that's what they were trying to do with you.'"

Shades of Al Capone? The Mob no longer runs Vegas? With all that was happening in Sin City, it was fitting I chose Alcatraz to spend my holiday.

Monday night January 29, 2003 was one of the coldest and wettest in the history of San Francisco. A perfect setting for my visit to Alcatraz Federal Prison. I wanted to experience first hand what might lie ahead for some of the above mentioned former and current Vegas public officials and their corrupters.

Closed since 1963, but accessible for tours by reservation, the facility now operated by the National Park Service is a short boat trip from Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf.

When word got out that I was going to "The Rock" over the holidays, an unusual offer came from former pro wrestler Buffalo Jim Barrier, one of the subjects often written of in Inside Vegas. He asked if we could arrange a rendezvous at the prison?

Barrier's photographic skills have documented dozens of beatings and otherwise unconscious victims of his neighboring business, the Crazy Horse Too. His photos are regularly featured on these pages and he is an ardent fan of true crime stories and movies, especially those that feature Alcatraz. He offered his services as a photographer. Accompanying Barrier was his eleven year old daughter Jerica who has ambitions to be a lawyer and who is also a talented photographer. We all wanted to see where Al Capone spent hard time, and I appreciate their help in providing the accompanying photo record of my visit.

                        Miller receives visit from Barrier (Photo by Jerica Barrier)

Capone's stark cell was a shocking contrast to the shrine kept by Rizzolo in his dubious honor. In May 1932, Capone was sent to Atlanta to begin his eleven-year sentence. Capone created a network of protection and privilege even in prison he furnished his cell with a mirror, typewriter, rugs, and a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Family members kept in constant contact with him and even took up residence at a nearby hotel. His connection to the outside world was so effective that he was able to continue to run his crime organization from his prison cell. His timing was bad, though, because it was right about that time that wardens everywhere were being asked to recommend their most troublesome inmates for transfer to Alcatraz. Capone was one of the first to go. While at Alcatraz, he exhibited signs of syphilitic dementia. When he wasn't shivering in his lonely cell, Capone was spending much of his felony sentence in the prison hospital.

                                  Miller on Capone's bunk (Photo by Jerica Barrier)

I entered Capone's depressing former abode and reclined on his ice cold steel bunk. Jerica took photos of the event. Rick Rizzolo's inner sanctum immediately came to mind - a warm space once reserved for prominent sports figures, celebrities, and local politicians - some whom may soon end up in a federal prison cell similar to the one in which I lie.  As my bare hand almost froze to the frigid metal, I wondered if Mr. Rizzolo would like an autographed photo to hang in his shrine commemorating my visit to the cell of his former hero?

A Park Ranger explained that Alcatraz was actually much better in many ways than today's Federal prisons. It limited one man to a cell and provided superior food. The downside was its cost of operation, inconvenience to visitors, and that all supplies had to be shipped in by boat. Also it had no waste treatment plant and spilled raw sewage into San Francisco Bay. The decision was made to close it down.

                               Photo by Jerica Barrier

We continued our tour. The Ranger pointed to a set of barred windows located near the top of the main cell block. He described how inmates who resided on the second tier could look out across the bay and see the lights of San Francisco, and how depressed they would become having such a privilege. Capone's cell lacked such a view, in fact it only faced another bleak cell. I almost felt sorry for him.

                   Frank Morris' cell  (Photo by Jerica Barrier)

Before leaving, I happened onto the cell of Frank Morris, the subject of the Clint Eastwood movie Escape from Alcatraz. I was amazed to see that the authorities saw fit to preserve his hollowed out vent hole, the one he escaped through in 1962. He was never heard from again, and the prison closed one year later.

After experiencing what its like at the end of the glory road, it felt good to go home to sunny Las Vegas.

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