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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:

Another Embarrassing Day in Court for Rizzolo
Long-time feud escalates after third legal defeat

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
March 29, 2004

"There has never been a suit filed that we haven't beaten and I'm hoping our record
will stay that way." -- Bart Rizzolo, August 1, 1997

"When is the city going to shut that toilet down?" -- Buffalo Jim Barrier, March 19, 2004

LAS VEGAS - For the past several years, Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo, the purported owner of the Crazy Horse Too strip joint, has been trying to throw out his next door neighbor, Buffalo Jim Barrier. In 2002, Rizzolo purchased the shopping center where Barrier's auto garage, Allstate Auto & Marine, is located -- then he filed an eviction action, but to no avail. His action was thrown out of court when Barrier's lease proved to be rock solid.

Its not confirmed whether Rizzolo was personally involved, but soon after the shopping center was purchased, Allstate customer's cars began being vandalized, water and electricity was cut off, and a threat was made on Barrier's life. But all this did not convince the stubborn half-Greek, half-American Indian mechanic to move.

Rizzolo needs Barrier's space to expand his adult business, however he's not willing to buy out Barrier's remaining five year leasehold. Instead, Rizzolo is apparently depending on his political clout to do the trick at no expense to himself. Meanwhile, Crazy Horse patrons are greeted by Buffalo Jim and his funky garage every time they patronize Rizzolo's bar.

          Buffalo Jim Barrier (Las Vegas Review Journal)

For the past several years, life has been less than pleasant for both parties. Barrier who pays only forty-three cents per square foot for his 10,000 square foot garage cannot find comparable space so near the Strip for less than three dollars per foot. He considers his mob associated neighbor and new landlord a pesky pain in the ass -- but something he can bear for the bargain price he's paying.

Rizzolo has other troubles that make his skirmish with Barrier pale in comparison. On February 20, 2003, the Crazy Horse was raided by eighty federal agents for suspected links between the business and organized crime, along with suspected political corruption and racketeering.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported: "The warrant specifically authorized officers to seize 'documents and records which would demonstrate the existence of tribute payments' made to La Cosa Nostra crime families for allowing the business to operate in Las Vegas. It also authorized the seizure of records that 'would establish the identity of those persons who may have a hidden ownership in the club.' "

         Las Vegas Review Journal FRONT PAGE photo by Gary Thompson

Even with federal indictments looming, Rizzolo persists with his plan to expand his business. He allegedly called in some favors from a few politicians -- notably the mayor -- and soon the city's Parking Enforcement Division went into action. Imagine taxpayers paying for daily inspections of a strip club parking lot by city employees driving city equipment! One can easily see the results of the political influence the skin merchant has mustered from years of doling out nefarious campaign contributions.
Up until last week, it was common to see city employees in Parking Enforcement vehicles asking Barrier's customers to leave the premises or face being towed. This occurs while Barrier's lease clearly states: "Tenant, for the use and benefit of tenant, his agents, employees, and customers, shall have the nonexclusive right in common with landlord and other and future tenants... to use all designated parking areas during the entire term of this lease."

Its also documented that when Rizzolo bought the center, he agreed in writing to honor Barrier's lease including the parking provisions. He signed a Purchase Agreement stating: "That Buyer has been advised that the property is subject to certain leases listed on Exhibit "B", and it agrees to purchase the Property subject to the terms of said leases."

Then the city became involved. When asked about the sudden and unusual parking enforcement action, the head of the Parking Enforcement Division referred all inquiries to Mayor Oscar Goodman's office. Goodman, prior to being elected mayor of Sin City, was Rizzolo's attorney and represented a number of current Crazy Horse employees in past criminal defense actions. Therein lies the suspected quid pro quo that brings forth the harassment that Barrier claims is violating his lease and civil rights -- "harassment under color of law."

       Joey Cusumano & Goodman

It also needs to be mentioned that Goodman's biggest former client, Joey Cusumano, is suspected of having hidden ownership in the Crazy Horse.

Last Friday, Clark County Justice Court had a different take on the Barrier/Rizzolo situation. Barrier sued Rizzolo for the expense of recovering his customer's vehicles from impound lots and to stop the illegal towing.  He easily won his case, but not before Rizzolo's attorney told the court a bold faced lie.

The attorney from the firm of Patti and Sgro falsely and knowingly told the court that Barrier had agreed to the no-parking provision in a newly signed lease that he forgot to bring to court.

Barrier's attorney explained that his client would never sign such a lease, and if he had, it would certainly have included a month to month provision. If so, Barrier would have been evicted at the last court hearing -- a hearing that ruled the lease has been valid since 1976 when it was originally signed, and remains soundly in effect until 2009 when it expires.

Following Friday's verdict, Barrier's attorney Gus Flangas wrote the following letter:

That morning following the trial, Barrier appeared live on a radio talk show I was hosting. He bragged of his victory, and when asked if Rizzolo had paid the judgment, Barrier stated that if the money was not paid within ten days, he would place a lien on Rizzolo's private residence in Canyon Gate.

Then in the middle of the interview from Barrier's garage, the unimaginable happened. A drunk staggered out of the Crazy Horse Too and passed out in front of Barrier's office!

Barrier interrupted his interview to go outside and assist the hapless bar patron who was on his way to his car when he went down. While the radio audience intently listened, Barrier tried to aid the unresponsive man, then called 911 on his cellular. Within minutes sirens were heard in the background. The man was soon revived by paramedics and provided transportation back to his hotel.

As the event unfolded, Barrier told the radio audience that this was a common occurrence and the city needed to crack down on Rizzolo for continuously allowing intoxicated patrons to drive away from his bar. He emphasized that the Crazy Horse is located across the street from a low-income neighborhood full of small children, and that bar patrons often "blast off" out of the parking lot and into the neighborhood.

Following the broadcast, Rizzolo reportedly became furious. He immediately took additional illegal action against Barrier, this time by coning off his entire parking lot to Allstate customers.

            Frederick Rizzolo

A second letter was promptly dispatched to attorney Dean Patti:

The cones were removed, but the hostility escalated. The story spread like wildfire. A humble garage owner was challenging the local mob on their own turf!

                                  Rizzolo's crew

"For years, the management and 'security' staff of the Crazy Horse has been infested by a rogues' gallery of thugs, thieves, drug pushers, and corrupt ex-cops. Most, if not all, have well documented ties to organized crime figures who frequent the premises. All of this has nurtured a culture of violence marked by robberies, beatings and even death." -- former federal organized crime prosecutors Donald Campbell and Stan Hunterton, LV Review Journal, 12/22/02

For taking a stand, former pro wrestler Barrier emerged as a local folk hero and was nicknamed "The Mob Buster!" While his legion of fans grew, Barrier's picture appeared on the cover of last week's Mercury, Vegas' most widely read weekly magazine, and he was hired to appear in a Toyota car commercial.

          "The Mob Buster," Buffalo Jim Barrier

On Wednesday March 24, Barrier called this writer to say that another drunk was photographed leaving the Crazy Horse. Barrier often takes photos of such episodes trying (in vain) to convince the city to crack down on violations of the alcohol awareness (TAM) laws that hold bar owners responsible for allowing severely intoxicated patrons to drive away and endanger innocent lives.

             Barrier photographs unconscious man as Crazy Horse bouncer protests

This time events took a turn for the worse. After protesting Barrier taking photos of the passed out man lying in the main entrance of their employer's nightclub, bouncers revived the man and tried to send him to his car. The man did not make it that far.

As Barrier watched in amazement, the man got up and staggered along the walkway to the front entrance of Allstate Auto less that 100 feet away. Crazy Horse bouncer James Stressing was in hot pursuit. The drunk opened the door and stumbled into Barrier's customer lounge with Stressing at his heals. While frightened garage patrons watched, the drunk fell onto a couch and again passed out. Barrier called 911 as Stressing watched.

Paramedics revived the drunken man who immediately flashed a police badge! Surprisingly, he was an off-duty cop from another city who had overindulged.  The medical team made sure he was only drunk, and summoned a taxi.

After paramedics left, Stressing said "f - - k you" to Barrier in front of customers and garage employees while lingering "menacingly" in Allstate's waiting room. He followed by giving Barrier the finger which caused two customers waiting for estimates to walk out. According to witnesses, Barrier remained silent thought the incident not wanting to excite the 300 pound bodybuilder.

Barrier has been named a federal witness in the upcoming racketeering trial of Rizzolo and his associates. The action of Stressing, who is an agent of Rizzolo, may be considered a threat on a federal witness, therefore a report of the incident along with witness statements was submitted to prosecutors. The incident will also be included as evidence in a civil harassment lawsuit Barrier filed against Rizzolo and his corporation in 2002. The trial was taken off calendar on December 17, 2003 after US District Judge Philip Pro put a stay on all discovery regarding the Crazy Horse Too pending federal indictments. *

Barrier is not finished. Since the mayor has often proven his loyalty to the Crazy Horse and its known and suspected owners, nothing has been done officially to stop the bar from serving patrons until they are completely drunk, and then letting them drive away. On Friday March 26, two days after the drunken cop episode, Barrier called Sandy Heverly, Executive Director of the local chapter of STOP DUI.

Heverly has become nationally known as the originator of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and has opened chapters nationwide. Being a Las Vegas resident, Heverly is expected to take special interest in Barrier's photo collection of drunks and injured patrons trying to make it to their cars, along with several police reports Barrier will provide. Heverly has a 100% track record in her quest to lower blood alcohol limits, and strengthen national DUI laws. The problem of continuing violations of the TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management) law at the Crazy Horse is right up the STOP DUI alley.
                                                  Photos of Crazy Horse victims selected from Jim Barrier's collection, 2001 - 2004

Now, with several court victories under his BWF Heavyweight Champion belt, Barrier is ready for the next bout. He won't have long to wait. The Las Vegas Mercury reported the following in the January 30, 2003 edition:

"Rizzolo says a street widening project that's slated to get rolling in the next few years will render the whole conflict moot, as Barrier will have to negotiate with the state Department of Transportation and Rizzolo will raze the whole shopping center--including Crazy Horse Too and Buffalo Jim's auto marine shop--and build a new 60,000-square-foot gentlemen's club."

Based on the Mercury story, Barrier made three attempts to obtain the new driveway plans from the city, and from the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). After much prodding, the city Department of Public Works reluctantly released a set of plans showing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tax funded amenities to aid in accessing only one business -- the Crazy Horse Too -- a business that at the time the plan was released had yet to submit an application to the city for any new structure.

To this day the city Planning Department is still not in receipt of a building permit application even though the roadway plan shows an exaggerated driveway along with an ominous sidewalk running directly through the middle of Barrier's business; a driveway leading to a structure that has not yet been approved at a public hearing. It also shows two turn lanes and a extra wide median in front of the Crazy Horse to access West Sahara Ave., and only one turn lane to access East Sahara Ave. which leads to the famous Las Vegas Strip.

Sahara Ave. generates more traffic going toward the Strip. This discrepancy alone may indicate that the plan was purposefully and "creatively" designed (by persons yet to be named) in order to crowd the roadway onto Rizzolo's property making it easier to justify the taking of Allstate Auto through eminent domain, and to justify his building a new nightclub on the rear of his property sans Barrier's business.

The timing of the release of this plan and its suspicious features is causing extensive speculation in the legal community, especially among transportation specialists. Could this be the quid pro quo?

(A) Driveway & sidewalk through Barrier's business, (B) Two left turn lanes with extra wide median to access
West Sahara Ave., (C) Exclusive signalized turn lane into bar, (D) One left turn lane to access East Sahara Ave.
(Courtesy of the City of Las Vegas Department of Public Works. Annotations added by author.)

As a compromise, Barrier offered to move his business at his personal expense to the north end of the existing building -- the end that is less subject to draconian action by the city and NDOT. He also offered to pay double his present rent for a ten year extension of his lease. However, Rizzolo balked at his suggestion -- which further bolsters speculation that a conspiracy exists.

Also of interest is the fact that the same roadway plan skips any engress/egress enhancements for Whittlesea-Bell Transportation Company located two blocks north of the Crazy Horse. Thousands of cabs, buses and limos enter and exit the company each 24 hours, but no exclusive signalized turn lane or custom driveway is depicted for their convenience or safety on the roadway plan. It seems that the mavens who created the roadway plan had only the Crazy Horse in mind.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Barrier began preparing for a lengthy court battle saying it was obvious Rizzolo possessed advance knowledge when he bragged in the Mercury -- months before the driveway plans were publicly released -- that his entire building was going to be razed including the units at the north end that are not seriously impacted by a road widening -- units that could be used to house Allstate Auto until the end of its lease. In the meantime, Mayor Goodman and Rizzolo's attorney appeared together at a public hearing to push an ordinance making it easier for the Crazy Horse to expand.

Rizzolo's lawyer Dean Patti and Oscar Goodman
speak in favor of ordinance to expand Crazy Horse

Who gave Rizzolo advance knowledge of the city's driveway plans? Was it possibly Rizzolo's best friend Joey Cusamano? He's one of Mayor Oscar Goodman's former mob clients and someone with whom the mayor still maintains a close relationship. Or was it Tom Letizia? He's Goodman's campaign manager and political fund raiser who doubles as Rizzolo's PR man. Coincidentally, Tom's cousin Tony Letizia is the NDOT program development manager in Southern Nevada; another agency that will need to cooperate if attempts are made to remove Barrier by eminent domain. Sounds pretty cozy, doesn't it?

The battle lines are drawn, and the taxpayers will bear the cost for much of the legal battle if Rizzolo et al., have their way. However, Barrier and his team of prominent attorneys are ready. Another law firm, one who specializes in Fifth Amendment issues and property rights, is also standing by to join the Barrier legal team if the need arises.

If and when Rizzolo and his supporters make their move, most of the above named individuals, and others to be named at a later date, could be sued in their separate personal and professional capacities as possible co-conspirators in a scheme to violate Barrier's civil rights under color of law. If so, they may end up defending themselves in a protracted federal court battle that might make them think twice about having done favors for a "person of ill repute."

Based on the quality of advice and representation that his attorneys Dean Patti and Tony Sgro have so far provided in the Barrier dispute, Rizzolo's defense in the more arduous upcoming cases may also end with similar results.

Of course, for the eminent domain and business expansion to take place, Rizzolo needs to stay out of prison. He has reportedly asked the mayor's son, Ross Goodman, to defend him at trial if he's indicted.

Asked if he's frightened taking on the local mob, Barrier answered, "I don't have time to be scared. I pay such low rent I keep my prices cheap and the customers just keep coming back, I'm too busy to care about those scum bags. Anyway, I like that nickname: 'The Mob Buster.'"

* The author is a former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner, and is a consultant in a civil lawsuit against Frederick Rizzolo.

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