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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:

Vegas mayor accused of helping
mob associate as payback for
past (and present) client referrals

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
December 29, 2003
        Fire laws enforced during day only             Fire Lane becomes valet parking area after dark (note sign on wall)

LAS VEGAS - City of Las Vegas Fire Inspectors and Mayor Oscar Goodman are being accused by a business owner of selectively enforcing the Las Vegas Fire Code as a favor to a politically influential topless bar owner and his friends.

On May 1, 2002, bar owner Rick Rizzolo purchased the Industrial Road shopping center that houses Allstate Auto and Marine, a business owned by Buffalo Jim Barrier located at the same address since 1978. After purchasing the strip center, Rizzolo's first order of business was to try to cancel Barrier's long term lease and evict him to make way for an expansion of his bar. Two judges sided with Barrier and he remained in business. Rizzolo then took a different course of action. He allegedly asked a favor from his friends at city hall.
                Barrier                                  Rizzolo               Rizzolo associate Joey Cusumano and Goodman

Rizzolo has stubbornly refused to buy out Barrier's remaining nine year leasehold, so Mayor Oscar Goodman was allegedly asked to jump into the fight as a possible payback for past favors.

Rick Rizzolo's name surfaced in early 2003 when the FBI and IRS conducted a joint raid of his business based on suspicions that he is a front for the Chicago mob. Many of Rizzolo's mob associates were once high paying clients of Oscar Goodman when he was a criminal defense attorney before being elected Mayor of Sin City in 1999. Therein lies the alleged quid pro quo.

Immediately after Rizzolo took possession of the 2.6 acre property for which he paid $5.5 million, Barrier discovered Las Vegas Fire Department FIRE LANE - NO PARKING signs posted on the side of his garage. For over twenty five years the Fire Lane had been located along the fence on the south side of the alley that adjoins Barrier's business. Then the Fire Lane was suddenly and without notice moved to the north side of the alleyway where Barrier's customers had previously been allowed to park along the wall of the building.

When several regular customers accidentally parked in the newly posted space, three tow trucks suddenly appeared on the scene while Rizzolo and several men watched and took photographs.

             City dispatched tow trucks remove Allstate Auto customer's cars

     Rick Rizzolo and associates (left). Ralph Rizzolo photographs tow trucks (right)

Later that day, Barrier photographed the same space being used by Rizzolo as a valet parking lot with no sign of tow trucks. He called the Fire Department to complain.

                   Crazy Horse customer's cars valet parked in fire zone

The next morning, Fire Inspectors Stickler and Paul visited Barrier's business and removed the signs from the wall and placed them back on the fence. They told witnesses that the Fire Lane belonged on the other side of the alley. However, that same afternoon Stickler and Paul returned, and to Barrier's dismay, re-mounted the signs on the side of his garage. When questioned, one Inspector reportedly said, "Mr. Rizzolo is politically influential." The next day, a six-inch wide red stripe was painted around Barrier's business along with orange cones and saw horses displaying additional NO PARKING warnings to his customers.

  Rizzolo's barrier around Barrier's garage

When asked about the situation, Barrier, a former pro wrestler responded, "This is really chicken shit. Why doesn't Rick just buy me out? Somebody downtown must owe him big time!" In the meantime, city parking enforcement scooters patrol the private parking lot several times per day threatening to ticket Barrier's customers, while ignoring patrons of the topless bar.

          Buffalo Jim Barrier

Barrier states that he's concerned for the public's safety in the event of a fire during times in the evening and late night when the Fire Lane is used for bar patron's parking and all emergency vehicle engress/egress is blocked. He asked Inspectors Stickler and Paul to make an inspection during those hours, but was refused.
  Front of bar during day when city issues tickets           Front of bar at night when city ignores fire code

Barrier believes that some LVFD and City Parking Enforcement officials are harassing him at Goodman's behest as a favor to Rizzolo and his friends including mobster Joey Cusumano. Cusumano was credited with introducing Goodman to most of his former criminal clientele, and has long been suspected of having hidden ownership in the Crazy Horse. Goodman self financed his first successful run for Mayor with money garnered from defending criminals -- many referred to him by Cusumano. Rick Rizzolo refers to Cusumano as his "best friend in the world."

In October 2001, following allegations of narcotics sales, credit car fraud, prostitution, robberies, beatings, and a wrongful death at the Crazy Horse, Mayor Goodman invited me to meet with him in his City Hall office. He began the meeting by stating that he was "not doing any favors for Joey Cusumano," though I did not bring up Mr. Cusumano's name. Following our meeting, Goodman entertained Cusumano in his home, and refused to stop the well documented problems at the Crazy Horse.

These events cause me to believe that the Mayor -- or his family -- may still be on the mob's payroll. Both of Goodman's sons are attorneys and have taken over their father's former criminal law practice and 4th Street office.

Barrier pays only thirty-three cents per foot for his 10,000 square foot garage and says he could not find comparable space for less than $3 per foot in the immediate area. In order to stay in business, he sued Rizzolo for harassment. The case is pending trial.

In 1999, Rizzolo expanded his bar by 6,000 square feet without building permits or additional parking. The city, under direction of Goodman's predecessor Mayor Jan Jones,  issued permits several months after the addition was complete and only after nearby property owners threatened to sue the city. However, the city did not require additional parking thereby causing overflow into the adjacent residential neighborhood prompting property owner Chris Christoff to write to the city Fire Chief and Jones' successor, Mayor Goodman. His certified letter stated:

Enclosed please find a letter dated September 15, 1999, addressed to Deputy Fire Marshal Jeff Donahue and copied to Mayor Oscar Goodman. I am writing directly to you because, to this date, I have not received a reply to my previous letter. I believe that an emergency overcrowding condition exists at The Crazy Horse Too, 2476 Industrial Rd., an adult orientated business located near my property in Meadows Village.

I am in the transportation business so I often take patrons to this establishment, and in doing so I have observed what I believe is serious overcrowding on numerous occasions. As a former Bostonian, I can't help but remember the horrible Coconut Grove nightclub fire of 1941 that killed over 300 people in an overcrowded room with inadequate exits.

The Crazy Horse Too appears to be seriously overcrowded on the many occasions I have observed. I have also observed 50 - 100 persons waiting outside while cars and busses blocked emergency vehicle engress/egress to the building.

This business recently expanded by an additional 6,000-sq. ft. without obtaining permits until after construction was completed. The addition, which was stated to be for a private employee "dressing room," was immediately observed being used by the public with no additional parking space provided.

Therefore a reexamination and enforcement of the fire capacity and parking requirements is warranted at the Crazy Horse Too. The bar's limited parking facilities cause cars and busses to overflow into my neighborhood that often park illegally on private property creating a traffic and safety hazard requiring tow-aways. The most serious offenses occur after 9 PM on weekends especially on Holidays and convention dates.

Please enforce fire capacity laws at the above establishment before someone is seriously injured or killed. Consider this letter a forewarning of a serious threat to the safety of the patrons of this establishment. If fire capacity numbers were at one time miscalculated or ignored, it is now imperative that such fire capacity limits be recalculated and enforced before a disaster occurs.

Neither Mayor Goodman nor the Fire Chief responded to Mr. Christoff's letters.

In the meantime, city parking enforcement personnel continue to harass Barrier's customers during the day while ignoring Rizzolo's illegally parked customers at night.

"Parking Enforcement Officer T. Young asked me if I was going into the Crazy Horse? When I told him I was there to get my truck fixed, he threatened me with a ticket if I didnít move," said a regular Allstate customer.

Lt. Karen Coyne of City Parking Enforcement stated that her division enforces 24 hours per day, but had no explanation when asked about the dangerous situation at the Crazy Horse Too after dark. "Maybe it would be better for us to make contact with the management or ownership if the problem is occurring at night. There certainly is more of an issue relating to this problem at night than there is during the day," she stated.

Parking Enforcement does not initiate new patrols on private property but does respond to requests for enforcement of Fire Lanes on private property when made by the Las Vegas Fire Department, and that is what occurred in this instance according to Coyne. Coyne then said she would get back to me after she talked to Crazy Horse management about the problem.

She never called back.

Several months later after nothing had changed, Lt. Coyne was questioned about the apparent ongoing selective enforcement, and the placement, removal, and replacement of the Fire Lane to the north side of the alley. The Lieutenant referred all further questions to the office of Mayor Goodman.

In the meantime, Goodman sponsored two ordinances to benefit his friends at the Crazy Horse Too. One was to allow the bar to expand within 1000 feet of another adult business. The other was to allow teenage strippers to work in city liquor bars, specifically the Crazy Horse. During the same period, KVBC TV, Channel 3 News reported that the Crazy Horse generated over 700 police responses in a three year period including 9 for assaults and 6 for robbery complaints involving bar employees.

                Crazy Horse floor managers

On February 21, 2003, the day following the FBI raid of the Crazy Horse, Mayor Goodman paid an unexpected visit to my home.

Goodman and Miller in front of writer's home (American Mafia photo by Mike Christ)

Standing in the street in front of my house, a nervous Goodman told me he would not legally challenge Rizzolo's liquor license because he did not want to interfere with a federal investigation. Since then, numerous additional beatings, credit card frauds, and a shooting have been reported at the Crazy Horse -- incidents that could have been prevented had Goodman taken action.

In contrast to Goodman, Clark County Sheriff Bill Young in August 2003, referred to Rizzolo as a "person of ill repute."

"Operation G Sting," which began at 5 AM, Thursday, February 20, 2003 with the raid of Rizzolo's bar, has so far resulted in criminal indictments of four top Las Vegas elected officials one of whom has already pleaded guilty to accepting bribes. Rick Rizzolo is also expected to face criminal indictment after the first of the year along with one or more elected officials who are suspected of doing him favors. It has been mentioned that Oscar Goodman's former law firm may represent Rizzolo if he is indicted.

Ironically, the expansion plans for the Crazy Horse have been put on hold pending the possible indictments. Sources in the Las Vegas office of the FBI would not confirm nor deny if Oscar Goodman is a target in the criminal probe of Rizzolo.


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