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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:

A Chip Off the Old Block

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
July 23, 2007

The final paragraphs of last week's INSIDE VEGAS struck a nerve with the son of convicted racketeer Rick Rizzolo.

In the column I referred to a person named Benny Behnen as being a coward for beating up women. His latest victim was Sandra Murphy whom he reportedly slugged and kicked in Piero's on July 9.

Behnen , 30, is part of a new breed of local spoiled brats who have no education or skills, but plenty of mom and dad's money to blow in bars and casinos. Benny's protégé is Rick Rizzolo's
impressionable 23 year old son Dominic.

This was the second time Behnen has gotten away with attacking a women in Piero's. A professional bar fly, Behnen has until recently been exempt from arrest or prosecution because he's the grandson of the legendary Benny Binion of Horseshoe Casino fame. The Horseshoe under the ownership of Jack and Ted Binion and later under the management of the Binion's sister Becky was once a major political campaign contributor to Vegas politicians including District Attorneys, Judges, and Sheriffs. Under the Behnen's mis-management, the Horseshoe went broke and its name was sold to Harrah's. The building still contains a casino, but its on the brink of closure. (Editor's note: Jack and Ted Binion contributed $20,000 cash to Steve Miller's 1991 mayoral campaign.)

Benny Behnen is nothing like his grand dad who treated women with respect. Now, Behnen's best friend has come forward to try to make a similar name for himself.

Dominic Rizzolo is also the son of a family who is famous for their generous political campaign contributions -- contributions that have kept local law enforcement at bay for over a decade.

Last week's column somehow inspired a threatening email from Dominic, a troubled young person who idolizes Benny Behnen. However, I suspect the real reason for his message may be based on fear of losing his financial security, not his admiration for a thug.

From: Melissa Hicks <>
Subject:    Dominic Rizzolo

This is Dominic Rizzolo. You have some nerve calling anyone a coward especially my best friend Benny Benhen (sp). It was you (steve miller) who gave up his own daughter for cocaine that was found in your possession in a car you were driving [1]
. If that isnt (sp) the definition of a cunt and a coward then i dont (sp) know what is. Why dont (sp) you make a copy of this email and put it on your website so that people can see just what kind of person your are. If you were to see any of us around you would scurry like a frightened rabbit.
Dominic Rizzolo

I have little regard for Benny Behnen because of his propensity to beat up women, but I do have some empathy for the younger Dominic who has ample time to mend his ways and find higher quality friends.

 Benny with a big cigar

Benny on June 4, 1997 was accused
in a police report by his uncle the late Ted Binion of participating in a drive by shooting at Ted's Palomino Lane estate.  Sandra Murphy, Ted's live in girl friend, also told police Benny was one of the shooters. Another confidential report obtained by INSIDE VEGAS from the Nevada Gaming Control Board tells of a drunken Benny and his dad Nick Behnen being ordered off Ted Binion's property at gunpoint.  Because of this and his subsequent attacks on women, I consider Benny a lost cause.

Like Benny Behnen, Dominic Rizzolo's childhood was anything but normal. Sources say Dominic was not close to his dad who spent his days and nights in his topless bar running an extortion, dope, and prostitution racket. Dominic was the product of Las Vegas Catholic schools, though he apparently didn't benefit from the religious experience.

Benny Behnen is the product of a convicted felon father who was once accused of secretly running the Horseshoe casino after his brother-in-law Ted's untimely death.  Benny's educational background is unknown. The Behnens and Binions were bitter enemies, hence Benny's alleged participation in the drive by shooting. Benny is a "poseur" who never grew up. His idol is his deceased grandfather Benny Binion -- a known killer in his time.

Had the late Benny Binion known his grandson would someday be accused of trying to kill his favorite son Ted, he would have probably made sure Benny was aborted in mid term.

After Dominic graduated from the Our Lady of Las Vegas School (8th grade photo shown above), sources say he began his high school days by getting in trouble with the law.

This inspired dad Rick Rizzolo to summon the help of his personal priest Father Dave
Casaleggio. As a favor to the family, the pastor reportedly pleaded for Dominic to get leniency. Sources say the younger Rizzolo got off whatever charge it was and dropped out of high school in his junior year. Even though he was under age, Dominic became a well known fixture in the local bar scene, and the apple of his dad's eye -- a chip off the old block.

Then came rumors about a buried gun.

I've not been able to confirm this story, but its often said that Dominic once asked a friend to bury a pistol in his back yard. The legend goes that Rick Rizzolo soon called the friend and ordered him to dig up the gun and bring it to the alley behind the Crazy Horse Too.  If this story is true, the reason the gun was buried, or the crime it was used to commit, is unknown.

Dominic's dad Rick is currently in Federal Prison serving a one year and one day sentence for racketeering. In 2005, just weeks before he was indicted, Rick Rizzolo conveniently divorced his wife Lisa after 25 years of marriage.

According to the LV Sun,
she got the family's 5,763-square-foot home in Canyon Gate, as well as an oceanfront home in Newport Beach, Calif., and a lake front condominium in Chicago. She also received two investment accounts worth $7.2 million, and $83,333 per month alimony along with a 2002 Mercedes S600 and two late model Range Rovers.
I recently uncovered THE LISA M RIZZOLO SEPARATE PROPERTY TRUST, a trust obviously formed by the Rizzolo's family attorneys Tony Sgro and Dean Patti to try to protect the couple's wealth from judgment creditors including beating victim Kirk Henry, the City of Las Vegas, and Rizzolo's next door neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier.
Kirk Henry's neck was broken in 2001 by a Crazy Horse bouncer. The injury rendered him a quadriplegic. In 2006 Henry won a judgment against the Rizzolos for $10 million -- a judgment that's one year past due for payment.

The City of Las Vegas is owed $1 million in fines. Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez filed an ORDER allowing auto garage owner Barrier to place a lien on the Crazy Horse property to secure payment of judgment in the likely event he wins a 5 year old harassment law suit against Rizzolo for trying to make him move out for free so the Crazy Horse could expand. The city, for some unknown reason, never placed a lien on Rizzolo's property, probably at the behest of Rizzolo's friend and former lawyer Mayor Oscar Goodman -- a stalwart defender of the Crazy Horse and law partner of attorneys representing a number of other Crazy Horse goons.

All together, the Rizzolos owe more than $18 million in judgments and liens, and have yet to pay one cent, though there is more than enough assets in the
THE LISA M RIZZOLO SEPARATE PROPERTY TRUST to cover all their liabilities including Kirk Henry's unpaid medical expenses.

Lately, I've been advocating that the
fraudulently transferred assets be seized and auctioned to pay the couple's legal obligations. I believe this is what motivated Dominic to write his email. His livelihood depends on the generosity of his parents.

Rick Rizzolo's attorney Tony Sgro successfully convinced U.S. Federal Court Chief Judge Philip Pro, the LV City Council, the media, and District Court Judge Jackie Glass (wife of LV City Councilman Steve Wolfson) that Rick Rizzolo is broke, and the only way he can pay his debts is through the sale of his former topless bar. Also, that in order for the bar to be valuable enough to cover the $10 million owed to the Henry's plus the additional $8 million owed to others, the bar's liquor license must be in effect.

In sympathy to Sgro's pleading,
Judge Pro and the City Council gave Rizzolo one year to sell the bar to an interim operator.  That didn't happen. The operator turned out to be a straw man for Rizzolo and It was suspected that most of the revenues were skimmed during that period.
Judge Pro and the City Council (including Councilman Wolfson -- a local criminal defense attorney) were duped into letting a straw man operate the bar for most of the year on behalf of Rizzolo who was secretly calling the shots from prison. Though all the Rizzolos were barred from stepping foot on the Crazy Horse property,  the straw man was ordered to let young Dominic be general manager with his uncle Ralph and aunt Annette assisting him. I informed the City Council, and a special hearing was called.  For the second time, the Rizzolo's were barred from their property.

The LV Review-Journal on Nov. 2, 2006 reported: "Council members pointed to members of the public who reported that Rizzolos continued to work there. Former councilman and relentless Crazy Horse Too foe Steve Miller has sent numerous e-mails and messages to the City Council alleging that the Rizzolos continued to operate the club. In one, dated Oct. 20, he wrote, 'Rick Rizzolo's 22-year-old son Dominic is now running the CH2 (Crazy Horse Too) with Rick's brother Ralph as the number two guy.'"

But that didn't stop Dominic from thumbing his nose at the City Council's order. He was soon reported back in the bar "higher than a kite and bragging about 'whacking' people," said one observer.

The Council fell for Mr. Sgro's line that the bar would be sold for up to $48 million dollars if it had a permanent liquor license. When that fizzled, on June 30 the city shut the place down (until Mayor Oscar Goodman can convince his obedient Council to let another straw man reopen it).
Last month, Kirk Henry's attorneys Don Campbell and Stan Hunterton asked Judge Glass for the ability to examine the Rizzolo's personal assets - not an unusual request in personal injury law suits. Judge Glass refused, parroting Sgro's line that the bar had to be sold to generate the Henry's $10 million judgment and their legal fees.

"Stop, stop, please. I did not draft the settlement agreement," she said, obviously annoyed. "You have to wait for the sale of this business."

Her refusal to allow Henry's attorneys to open the Rizzolo's books made her sound like another one of Rizzolo's lackeys.

(Local attorneys tell INSIDE VEGAS  that Goodman's law partners have recently been referring new criminal defense clients to the firm of Wolfson and Glass.)

Nowhere in Rizzolo's plea agreement or judgment does it stipulate the topless bar must be sold before debts are paid. The Rizzolo's combined fortune was made during the years the crimes occurred, and Mrs. Rizzolo's now-transferred assets were community property at the time of the crimes.

Furthermore, its now obvious the Rizzolos have no intention of selling the Crazy Horse to any outside party.

According to former Clark County Family Court Judge Robert Lueck, the Nevada Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act is fully applicable to Rick and Lisa Rizzolo's 2005 divorce.

In order to pass the smell test, you have to at least have separate counsel for each party, and go through some kind of legitimate settlement. This did not occur in the Rizzolo divorce. Tony Sgro's partner Dean Patti represented both parties simultaneously.

Rizzolo fraudulently transferred assets total well over the PAST DUE amounts owed.  It's also past the proper time for Judge Glass to rule based on NRS 112,140 -- pierce the phony LISA M RIZZOLO SEPARATE PROPERTY TRUST -- and finally allow the Henry family some closure from their nightmare.

Back to Dominic.

The TRUST was also set up to provide life-long sustenance for Rick Rizzolo's two adult children Dominic and Monica, sister Annette, brother Ralph, and father Bartholomew.
I am the only journalist so far to advocate the reversal of the bogus transfer. If the TRUST is pierced, Dominic and his family will be forced to alter their life style -- but not to the extent the lives of Kirk Henry and his family were altered after his visit to the Crazy Horse Too.
Dominic's email is now in the hands of the FBI; Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Organized Crime Bureau; U.S. Prosecutors, and others.
In response to his threatening missive, I offer Dominic this uncle-like advice before he gets into real trouble:

You have my empathy for being part of a very dysfunctional family, and for having a "best friend" that beats up girls. I don't hold you personally responsible for the crimes of your relatives and so called friends. Keep your nose clean, or you'll end up in prison like your dad. He no longer influences any local cops, the D.A. or judges. They've all turned their backs. He's washed up, and your days of coddling are over. You are now on law enforcement's radar screen. Be careful. Learn from your father's mistakes and grow up to be a good man so you can work to clear your family name.
Good luck,

Steve Miller is currently writing a book about the mob's battle to keep the Crazy Horse Too open.

* If you would like to receive Steve's frequent E-Briefs about Las Vegas' scandals, click here: Steve Miller's Las Vegas E-Briefs

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