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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:

Letters and advice for Rick, Vinny, and Mike
while they're in the slammer

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
April 2, 2007

J. Tony Serra is a San Francisco-based criminal defense attorney best known in Las Vegas for successfully appealing the first degree murder conviction of Sandra Murphy.

Murphy was convicted of murdering casino baron Ted Binion, but with Serra's help, and against county D.A. David Roger's best efforts, at re-trial a new jury exonerated her of all charges.  Today, Murphy lives a quiet life as a free woman near her parents in Southern California.

Tony Serra emerged from the televised trial as a master of litigation compared to our small town D.A. and his minions. (David Roger used his initial conviction of Murphy as the basis for a successful 2002 bid for District Attorney. But after the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the conviction and his prosecutors lost a retrial against Serra,  Roger's political opponent opted to not mention the losses, and Roger was reelected in 2006.)

In spite of his Vegas success, Serra hasn't fared as well when it comes to refusing to pay Federal Income Taxes. Last year, the esteemed jurist was sentenced for a second time to Lompoc Federal Prison Camp for tax evasion and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution.

Serra published a letter in January that offers foreboding advice for three Las Vegas strip club moguls recently sentenced to what many think are country clubs called Federal Prison Camps. His incarceration, which began last May, was delayed to accommodate his trial schedule.

Below is an excerpt from Serra's letter from Lompoc; a letter that should especially be of interest to the "Vegas Three;" Rick Rizzolo - Prisoner Number 41390-048Vinny Faraci - Prisoner Number 18408-053, and Mike Galardi (no number yet). The three convicted felons will begin serving their sentences at Lompoc, and Taft, California prison camps later this spring.  Faraci and Rizzolo are known mob front men. Galardi is not known to have mob associations.

By J. Tony Serra, Prisoner Number 99943-011:

"And self-segregation of the various ethnicities is blatant. Hispanics are the largest segment of the prison occupants; Spanish is the most-heard language. Middle Eastern and Asian languages are also prevalent. Tattooed skinheads of all races represent the preferred appearance. In 1976 we slept in cubicles. We now sleep in foul-odored, overcrowded, double-tiered bunks in military-like barracks. Our mail, our phone calls, our every move is scrutinized; each visitor or telephone-call recipient must be cleared. Visiting is only on weekends. Half the camp inmates have been informants. 'Roll ups' to isolation for minor infractions is the rule, not the exception. A poisonous drear smothers the consciousness of the Camp inmate. We are treated like robots, not humans."

( Read Mr. Serra's full letter: )

But Serra is not alone in his opinion of what life is like inside a "Country Club." Here's some advice for our hapless trio from those in  the know:

"I got out of the Camp at Taft CI about 3 weeks ago, and while it's all still fresh in my head I wanted to put down what I can to help take away as much of the mystery and the fear of the unknown as I can.

First off, the Camp is a minimum security facility, which means there are no fences or walls, no violent criminals, weirdos, hard core gang members or gangs, or anything like that. Although most of the people there are for drugs (about 70% or so), they are all non violent offenders in there for their first offense, or they have been model inmates who have worked their way down from Low or Medium security facilities. Everyone from Tommy Chong to millionaires to people like me have spent time at Taft. So first off, don't worry about getting in fights, getting raped, having someone take your food or possessions, or anything silly like that. It just doesn't happen!

When you turn yourself in, no matter what your lawyer told you or probation dept, fbi, doj, whoever, bring:

Money! I'd recommend at least $300 for the first month. From there on out you can have someone send you in more money each month. The first month is the most expensive because you'll need to buy the basics, get more clothes and get some semi-real food. You can bring in whatever amount you want to; I've seen people come in with thousands of dollars to put on their books. Bring it either in CASH or a Postal Money Order and that's it. Otherwise it will take a long time for it to clear and get put on your books.

ID (drivers license) and Social Security Card! They will keep them in your file while you're in. If you don't at least bring your ID, they won't take you,

Gray sweats, white socks, white underware/boxers, white t-shirt, mostly white or mostly black shoes! They expect you to come dressed as an inmate when you get there. I know it sounds weird, but they do. I would get a quality sweat bottom and top, and a pair of sweat shorts to wear under them. Just get the normal gray color with little or no logos on them. If they are another color or have too many logos, they won't let you keep them. Also wear a white t-shirt, a white pair of underwear or boxers and a pair of white socks. Any other color then white and you can't keep them. Most importantly are the shoes! Get a new pair of shoes in mostly white or mostly black. Logos are ok as long as it's not too flashy and the shoes are not worth over $100. You'll wear the heck out of your shoes, so get a good pair. Once you're in, it takes up to 2 months to get new shoes! You can also optionally bring in a watch, not worth over $100, and a necklace with a religious item on it (cross, etc.) also not worth over $100.

Prescriptions and Medication! If you are on any prescriptions from your doctor, bring them with you along with any medication you may still have. They will give it to the medical facility on the Camp side so you'll have all your meds once you get there. Pill-call will be explained to you during orientation.

Paper with peoples contact information on it! You can bring in paperwork if you want to, but it has to be just piece(s) of paper, not in a notebook or whatever. I printed out a list of peoples names, addresses and phone numbers and took it with me. Once you're in, rather then having to wait for someone to send you a list, you'll have it so you can get phone numbers added to your phone list of people you can call, and you'll have all the addresses of people you want to write.

If you have any questions, call Taft before you show up!"

Another former Taft prisoner offered this:

"Here is where prison really begins. You'll be taken to the R&D area and processed, which involves signing a lot of paper work, having your picture taken for your ID card they give you and talking to a ton of people as part of your intake interview. You'll be taken to medical and have your vitals taken and given a TB test, and asked some health questions. The entire process takes a few hours.

 Taft Camp (upper right) is co-located with a medium security prison

There are around 500 to 550 people at the Camp at any given time, broken into 4 dorms, A, B, C and D (compared to the 12 on the Main Side). You will be assigned to one of those dorms, and once you get there you'll be given some linen for your bed and escorted to your bunk by the CO you got turned over to on the Camp side. You'll grab a mattress (how they can call them that is a crime in itself, lol), go to your bunk and then the CO leaves. Most likely because you're new, you'll be put into a 3 person cube as the 2 people cubes are reserved for people who have been there a while. The cubes are small, like 10x10 and 6 feet high, so it's pretty cramped. The dorm is basically a big open bay with these concrete cubes in 4 rows. They remind me of office cubes, but made out of concrete. There is a gang bathroom, similar to the kind you would see in the military. You have one room with sinks, one with urinals and toilet stalls (yes they are private) and one with showers (also private). There are some TV rooms and a rec room in your dorm to, but most of the time the TVs have something like Jerry Springer, soaps or wrestling on so it's not much to watch. I didn't watch TV at all when I was in.

There is plenty of A/C and heating inside, so you don't have to worry about getting hot or cold. The beds suck, and it'll take you about 3 weeks to get adjusted and get any kind of restful sleep. The food sucks overall, but they do have some Ok meals.

Depending on your crime, your race and how nice your bunkies (cube mates) are, you'll be shown the ropes by someone. If you're Mexican/Hispanic, black, Asian or white, usually someone from your race will show you the ropes and introduce you around to people. They will help you buy what you need, show you where to go and when, and all the other stuff you need to know. Besides this, race isn't much a factor in the camp any more then it is anywhere else. Everyone is friends with everyone else, but like anywhere in the world there will be people you think are jerks. No one wants to get into a fight because of what can happen (going to the hole, being transferred, getting moved to the Low, etc.), so people just avoid people they don't care for. (Editor's note: Last week's INSIDE VEGAS exposed that Mike Galardi may have requested a different prison camp in order to be separated from Rizzolo who is alleged to have been responsible for alerting the F.B.I. and triggering his indictment.)

Don't sweat it, you'll make friends and there are cool people in there. Ages range from 18 to grandpa, with most being in the early to mid 20s and the late 30's to early 40's. Don't be scared to ask questions! Everyone in there knows what it's like to be new, and they go out of their way to be helpful and nice.

Once you get in, within a day or two you'll be able to make your first phone call to the number you put down as your emergency contact number when you inprocessed. You can add more numbers later on, but it takes around a week to get them added. You can start getting and receiving mail right away too. My girlfriend sent me a letter before I left so I got it the second day I was there.

Well besides the everyday life there, that is what you can expect when you get to Taft. It's a hard day for sure when you turn yourself in, and it takes about a month before you get fully adjusted, but you will adjust.
Best of luck." 

Here's a note from a lady who was the wife of a former Taft inmate:

"Hi Steve: 
I read your article and all I can say is OH PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK!
Sending Rick, Vinny and Mike Galardi all together to Taft is like sending them to a resort at Cancun without the Frangelica and Margaritas.  
What the hell do you think they will do all day?   
You know as well as I do that all these guys are gonna do is plan the next scam, and talk: 'That m-----  f----- son of a bitch.'  'I'm gonna break his f----n' head.' And 'Wait till I get out!'   YADA YADA YADA............
Oh yeah, and the visits are monitored with a video camera, but unless they have lip readers, believe me, plans are being put in place for either moving money around or taking care of their businesses! 
And the guys like Rick who own the strip clubs?  I knew several from South Florida and going away is nothing to them because of all the money they have made and hidden.  And it is hidden!   
And as far as being unpleasant for family and friends to visit, it isn't that bad  It (Taft) is a small town and was used as a back drop in a Kurt Russel/Robin Williams movie,  and other shoots as well. 
Truth be told the few times I visited Taft  I incorporated a trip to the coast, maybe an hour drive.  This is where Carmine Persico is or was, not sure,  I haven't heard from him in years.  But I know while he was there he was planting tomatoes, playing in a band and doing all the other typical tasks for wiseguys in security.  I just hope all three of these guys get out and go straight, but seriously don't hold your breath  It is embarrassing for the families and friends and especially for the kids.
Sorry if I sound bitter, I guess after 16 years of that mob crap, I have had it.  Probably why I make fun of it.  Oh well! We all make mistakes.  Actually (name withheld) and I were never married (smart move on my part). We learn from our mistakes and that was one I learned from."  

I hope the above helps Rizzolo, Faraci, and Galardi acclimate into their new surroundings.

In my research, I've learned that the camps once known as "Country Clubs" are few and far between. The last known facility for upper class felons was located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. It was the temporary home of "Junk Bond King" Michael Milken who was frequently visited by Vegas' own Steve Wynn who registered into the camp over fifty times during Milken's stay.

Gaming license holders associating with known felons is strictly prohibited by Nevada Gaming Law -- unless your name is Wynn.

And after Wynn concluded his visits at Nellis, he was within minutes of our town's finest hotels and restaurants.

But for mobsters, crooked politicians, and family members who wish to visit Faraci and Rizzolo at Camp, it's a different story. The tiny nearby town of Taft offers several quaint motels and a sit down restaurant oddly named Chicken of Oz.

        The Welcome Inn features 16 luxurious                                               The Holland Inn
is a quality 2 story with 
       rooms each with an in-room coffee maker                                          in room AM/FM Alarm Clock, Coffee Maker
For those repeat visitors who seek luxury accommodations and cuisine near the Taft Prison Camp, they'd better be prepared to drive over an hour to Bakersfield, or an hour and a half to the coast. If not, the "Chicken" will become their meeting place of choice followed by restful nights and free coffee at the Welcome or Holland Inns. (Taft is a six hour drive from Vegas.)

"Yo Rocco! Meet me at Chicken of Oz after payin respects to Vinny and Rick."

It's not yet known whether the Chicken of Oz will be called upon to replace Fredde Glusman's Piero's in Vegas, or Ritz in Newport Beach -- the previous watering holes of Rizzolo's high rolling gang -- or if Glusman will make a bid on the "Chicken" in the likely event more of his best customers end up in Taft and their visitors need a home away from home. One thing's for sure though, Glusman's business will definitely suffer while Faraci and Rizzolo are away eating stale sandwiches from a prison vending machine.

And if Mike Galardi's attorneys are granted their request, Galardi's prison stay will be at Lompoc which is only a few miles north of the tony city of Santa Barbara; an area offering far more amenities for prison visitors than the desert town of Taft.

However, Taft has one attraction no other prison town can offer. It's the home of the Taft Kitty Litter Plant.  Therefore when Faraci's or Rizzolo's family members are killing time between visits, they can tour the world famous facility.
Following his release from Nellis, Michael Milken went on to become a pillar of the local and state gaming and political community, hosting lavish parties at his Lake Tahoe estate attended by Wynn and our Governor with no repercussion from gaming regulators.

That may also be the case for the "Vegas Three" when they get out. Why not? Our standards include thrice electing a mob attorney as our city's Mayor -- a Mayor who now wants to build a museum next to City Hall dedicated to his former mob clients including Faraci and Rizzolo. In fact, it was our Mayor's law partners and protégés who defended both Faraci and Rizzolo at their recent trials.

In the meantime, while Faraci and Rizzolo bide their time at Taft, their criminal enterprise continues. On April 18, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman -- though he's forced to abstain -- will lead the way behind the scenes to grant a straw man a permanent liquor license to continue the mob's covert operation of the infamous Crazy Horse Too strip club.

Surprised? Naw. This is the new Vegas, baby!

Copyright © Steve Miller

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