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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 sues police
and the FBI

7 weeks after the Sheriff referred to him as a "person of ill repute,"
Rick Rizzolo sues the Police Department. Is this a legitimate gripe,
a quid pro quo, a get-rich-quick scheme for his lawyer, or is the
best defense a good offense?

He violated department policies prohibiting officers from accepting gifts from suspects and consorting with persons of ill repute. -- Clark County Sheriff Bill Young on a police officer taking money from Rizzolo - August 6, 2003

   Sheriff Young (Las Vegas SUN)
The suit seeks punitive damages from Metro... in excess of $10,000 for the invasion of Rizzolo's privacy as well as his emotional distress, humiliation, legal fees and loss of business profits and reputation. -- Las Vegas Sun, October 1, 2003

Frederick Rizzolo (Las Vegas SUN)
I won't allow you to get through the back door what you can't get through the front door in this proceeding, -- U.S. Magistrate Peggy Leen to attorney Tony Sgro after refusing to unseal FBI affidavits

Though he's wealthy and has friends in high places -- and a battery of lawyers in his corner -- Rizzolo is in the unenviable position of having to take on the unlimited resources of the FBI and the Justice Department. Once they consider you a bad guy, these agencies keep coming at you. -- Columnist, Las Vegas SUN, March 7, 2003

We have now a solid basis to prove that we suffered financially as a result of the high-profile nature of the raid, -- attorney Tony Sgro on lawsuit against FBI, Las Vegas Review Journal, March 7, 2003

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
October 6, 2003

Business must be slow around this time of the year for Sin City lawyer Tony Sgro. Even after losing several cases for his biggest client, Crazy Horse topless bar owner Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo, Mr. Sgro still found yet another cause with which to charge Rizzolo legal fees. Now he is suing the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

For several years the federal government has been looking into the alleged mob associations of Rizzolo. They are reportedly seeking information as to whether he pays tribute to Chicago organized crime through a cadre of friends and club employees, some with possible ties to Las Vegas City Hall and the Nevada state Department of Transportation.

    Joey Cusumano and Oscar Goodman                          Fred Pacente                              Rocco and Joey Lombardo

Goodman and Crazy Horse PR man Tom Letizia    Sgro with Vinnie Faraci & Bart Rizzolo                   Al Rapuano

Tony Sgro's record of success in court is a checkered one. On Nov. 13, 2001, he failed in an attempt to secure a Gag Order against this writer to stop me from reporting violent events at the Crazy Horse. But that was not the first time Mr. Sgro failed to please his boss and lost face in the process.

For more than four years Sgro has been trying to evict Rizzolo's next door neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier so the topless bar could expand. On May 1, 2002, Rizzolo, allegedly on Sgro's advice, went so far as to purchase the 2.63-acre shopping center where his bar is located for $5.5 million thinking that by doing so he could break Barrier's lease. Clearly bad advice since in his purchase agreement Rizzolo initialed a page that stated he would honor existing leases including Barrier's.

On the two occasions when Sgro petitioned the court to break Barrier's long term lease, the court sided with Barrier. The first time was in May 2000, when Barrier's former landlady as an obvious favor to Rizzolo attempted to remove the garage owner to provide space for the topless bar's expansion. On April 3, 2001, Judge Nancy Oesterle dismissed the eviction.

Then on August 27, 2002, after his client bought the property at a highly inflated price, Sgro filed eviction notices ordering Allstate Auto and the BWF Wrestling School, businesses that flank the bar, out in thirty days.

Barrier's attorney Gus Flangas immediately responded with a request for a hearing in Justice Court. The judge stayed Rizzolo's evictions and let Barrier's businesses remain until the end of their leases.

When questioned about the failed evictions, Rizzolo told a reporter that a street-widening project scheduled within the next few years will force Barrier out through eminent domain at taxpayer's expense. However, Rizzolo failed to mention that others including a relative of his PR man, and the former attorney of Black Book member Joey Cusumano, may play big parts if eminent domain is attempted.

Sources close to the investigation say that federal authorities are paying particularly close attention to long-term relationships between Rizzolo, Rizzolo's PR man Tom Letizia, current Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman who was Cusumano's former criminal defense attorney, and Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn. In order for an eminent domain taking to occur, it would take behind the scenes help from City Hall and the Governor's Mansion. Goodman has a soft spot for Cusumano who is suspected of having hidden ownership in the Crazy Horse, while the governor sees nothing wrong with embracing Rizzolo and his campaign contributions.

Furthermore, Letizia doubles as Goodman's campaign manager and chief fund raiser, and Letizia has a relative in a key position within the Nevada Department of Transportation, the agency that would be asked to condemn Barrier's business.

Since these connections were revealed in INSIDE VEGAS, and following the local and federal raids of the Crazy Horse, the expansion has mysteriously been placed on the back burner.

The artist's rendering of the expansion has also been removed from the "Coming Soon" page of the Crazy Horse website and replaced with a question mark.

In the meantime, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Barrier thinks his business looks just fine as the centerpiece in the entrance to the Crazy Horse Too. Barrier also says all the publicity generated by the feud has been good for his garage business. Rizzolo thinks otherwise and has grandiose plans for a new freestanding building. The only catch? Barrier's long term lease.

     Buffalo Jim Barrier in front of business blocking topless bar expansion (Las Vegas Review Journal)

                     Rendering of new building (removed from Crazy Horse website)
Even though competition is going up all around his bar, Rizzolo has steadfastly refused to negotiate a buyout of Barrier's lease. In the meantime, three new mega-gentlemen's clubs have opened nearby making the Crazy Horse look like an old nag in comparison, and another 25,000 square foot club just broke ground not far away.

It has been speculated that ego is keeping Rizzolo from negotiating with Barrier, and now that his business is declining, Messrs. Sgro and Rizzolo blame the police department and the FBI for their problems.

Sgro is asking a federal judge to hold two FBI agents in contempt for seizing documents that he said are protected by attorney/client privilege. He is also seeking punitive damages from at least eight Metro Police officers, and is suing Barrier for defamation of character - while billing Rizzolo by the hour for his services.

Sgro complains that police officers omitted mentioning in their search warrant the statement of a cab driver who alleges the injury that rendered Kansas tourist Kirk Henry a quadriplegic was self inflicted. The driver who was purportedly at the scene of the alleged beating reported that he had witnessed Henry fall to the ground thereby breaking his own neck. Other witnesses dispute his account including three other cabdrivers at the scene who stated that they saw the club's manager hit Henry and fall to the ground struggling with him.

The cab driver in question was later identified by other drivers as having regularly accepted favors from Rizzolo; favors such as being allowed to pull ahead in the queue, and being the only driver summoned to take drunks home at the club's expense.

The truth will come out at trial in February 2004, that's if Sgro's latest legal maneuver does not throw a monkey wrench in the works and cause a further delay. This is not the first time Sgro has attempted to delay this trial.

On March 3, 2003, Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass denied a Motion to stay progress in Henry's attempted murder trial. Rizzolos attorney unsuccessfully argued that because there is an on-going federal criminal investigation of his client, and that he cannot get documents from the Police Department to prepare his defense, the court should temporarily stop the proceedings. Judge Glass disagreed and soundly denied the politically influential bar owner's motion to stay, promptly scheduling a jury trial saying, "This trial will be number one on the stack!"

Some speculate that Sgro is again trying to delay the trial by filing the suit against the police so near the trial date. We'll just have to wait and see.

Then there is the harassment suit Barrier filed against Rizzolo on June 19, 2002. Sgro made a motion to dismiss the suit, but on August 6, 2002, Clark County District Court Judge Lee Gates denied his motion.

Barrier enjoys paying his new landlord only thirty-three cents per square foot for his 8,000 foot garage, and his lease is legally solid until 2011. "With such cheap rent, I can put up with his nonsense for the next eight years until my lease expires," stated Barrier who was given a sweetheart deal by his previous landlord.

With federal indictments expected in the near future, its starting to look questionable as to whom Barrier will be paying rent to for the majority of his remaining lease. In the meantime, Tony Sgro continues to "make hay while the sun shines" at his client's expense.

Copyright © Steve Miller

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