Feds Raid Mobbed Up Boob Bar
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
February 24, 2003
"If (the government) wants you bad enough, it'll get you,"
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman visiting author's home|
(Photos by Mike Christ)
former Federal Court Judge Harry Claiborne
LAS VEGAS - Five Nevada politicians including former state Senator Floyd
Lamb, former Clark County Commissioner Jack Petitti, and former Federal
Court Judge Harry Claiborne were convicted in the 1980s of charges that
stemmed from Operation
Yobo, a legendary undercover FBI investigation of Sin City's blatant
Lamb served nine months in prison for taking $23,000 in bribes from
an undercover FBI agent. Petitti was convicted of taking a $5,000 bribe
from an FBI undercover agent posing as a developer and was sentenced to
six months in prison.
Claiborne was convicted of tax evasion and served 17 months of a two-year
prison sentence. In 1986, while serving out his prison term, he became
the first federal judge in more than 50 years to be impeached and removed
Claiborne, prior to being appointed to the federal court, was the law
partner and mentor to then criminal defense attorney, now Sin City Mayor,
Attorney Goodman, represented Claiborne during his two criminal trials
and his impeachment proceedings in Congress.
Over the years, several ex-FBI agents have privately indicated there
was a fear at the bureau that Claiborne might have been tipping off the
mob to various investigations.
In hindsight, Claiborne explained he wasn't very smart about the way
he reacted when told that an ambitious Las Vegas FBI agent was looking
to nail him. "My only reaction was I haven't done a damned thing, and I
don't give a damn what he thinks of me. That was downright stupid. I should
have been cautious. I should have known they would have gone after me for
tax offenses," Claiborne said after he was convicted.
How soon we forget!
At 5 AM on Thursday, February 20, while family members watched, 80
from the FBI, DEA and IRS, with guns drawn, removed cash registers, files,
video surveillance equipment, computers, and unidentified materials from
the Crazy Horse Too topless bar in Las Vegas.
Rick Rizzolo, the purported owner of the converted warehouse bar located
in a seedy industrial neighborhood west of the Vegas Strip, has long been
suspected of being a front man for Chicago mob figures who may have hidden
ownership in the business. Of particular interest is that Rizzolo receives
a $20,000 per month consulting fee from the Crazy Horse Too bar in Chicago,
though its unknown what he does for the money.
have been reporting on what I consider serious criminal activities
at the politically connected bar since 1999. Since writing INSIDE VEGAS
for AmericanMafia.com, interest in the mobbed
up topless bar has burgeoned. I receive E-mail inquiries from around
the world from journalists who are following the Crazy Horse story, and
especially its possible connection to now Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.
Goodman, prior to being elected Mayor of Sin City in 1999 was a well
known criminal defense attorney. In addition to his former law partner
Harry Claiborne, his client list included Rick Rizzolo
and his cousin Joey Cusumano along
with notorious gangster Joey "The Clown"
Lombardo, brother of Crazy Horse manager Rocco Lombardo. Cusumano,
a member of Nevada's infamous
Book, is suspected by many of having hidden ownership in the Crazy
Horse Too along with others, the basis behind Thursday's raid.
In answer to a reporter's
question about the reason 80 federal agents stormed his bar, Rizzolo
voiced a suspicion that investigators have an informant who is "telling
them a bunch of baloney." But its not that simple.
I have long contended that Thursday morning's FBI raid could have been
avoided if city officials had taken timely action immediately following
the beating of Kansas tourist Kirk
Henry. I went so far as to make a formal request to Mayor Goodman that
he bring the trouble
plagued bar before the City Council on a Show
Cause Hearing. He refused. Then instead of bringing pressure on Rizzolo
to stop the violence, Goodman sponsored a custom designed ordinance
to allow the bar to expand; ordered city engineers to design a taxpayer
funded turn lane and driveway
into the proposed new bar; and legalized employment of teenage
strippers after the county outlawed them.
In the meantime, Goodman's campaign manager and kitchen cabinet member
Letizia served double duty as the Public
Relations Director and apologist for the Crazy Horse Too, while his
uncle Tony Letizia, an official
with the Nevada Department of Transportation, allegedly greased the skids
for a publicly funded turn lane and driveway
On the afternoon of the FBI raid, Oscar called to ask if we could meet.
At 8:30 the following morning, the Mayor pulled up in front of my home.
He had never visited me before, so I took particular interest. I also summoned
a photographer. The Mayor's car was driven by a large man who appeared
to be his bodyguard. The man in the car stared at me continuously during
our meeting but did not notice the cameraman in a car parked across the
street. Oscar exited the black Cadillac and we met
in the middle of the street. He appeared uncharacteristically nervous.
Goodman shook my hand and gave me a little hug. He started by saying
he respects the First Amendment. He then said, "There is nothing I can
do regarding a Show Cause Hearing while a federal investigation is underway."
I told him I fully expected him to say that, and his reaction this morning
was "too little - too late." I said that since I first asked him to bring
his former client before the Council, there have been additional beatings
and robberies that he could have prevented. At that point, with his head
slightly bowed, he turned to leave - hardly acting like the "Happiest Mayor
in the world" as he often proclaims.
Before he left, I handed him a revised printout of the "Rick
Rizzolo Connection" web page with new verbiage I added before he arrived:
records reveal nine assault and six robbery cases all involving Crazy Horse
Too employees, along with 737 police responses in just 3 years - but there
have been no criminal prosecutions! While the violence continues, our former
mob lawyer turned Mayor, Oscar Goodman, coddles Rizzolo and his friends,
some who were Oscar's former law firm's clients. On October 25, 2001, I
asked the Mayor to bring the Crazy Horse Too before the City Council on
a Show Cause Hearing to defend its privileged license. He refused, and
the violence continued."
I told Oscar he needed to read it. As he was driven away, he was observed
carefully reading the printout.
Rizzolo, a more than generous political
campaign contributor, has long been suspected of receiving political
favors from local judges,
officers, and public
officials as payback for his largesse.
As an example, on the morning of the raid, "Buffalo"
Jim Barrier who owns of two businesses that flank the topless bar,
arrived at his auto repair shop at 8 AM to find a black 2003 Ford
pickup truck parked in a controversial Fire Lane that had been installed
alongside his garage by city officials several months earlier.
Barrier, a former professional wrestler, contends the Fire Lane was
placed there as a favor to Rizzolo by the Mayor and City
Councilman Mike McDonald to discourage customers from patronizing his
garage and his wrestling
school. On occasions when Barrier's hapless customer's vehicles lingered
in the Fire Lane, the City Parking Enforcement scooter
would allegedly be summoned by the Crazy Horse and dutifully arrive in
minutes along with tow trucks. Political
harassment, claims Barrier, that could only happen with help from top
city officials who are covertly assisting Rizzolo in making Barrier
move so the bar can expand.
As trivial as it may sound, the Barrier/Rizzolo feud is being closely
scrutinized as a link to show the depth of patronism
between Rizzolo and certain public officials.
Rizzolo initially was allowed to expand his club by 6,000 square feet
in 1999 without
required permits, inspections, or increased parking after his close
friend Councilman Mike McDonald
removed a pornographic
book store to make room. City Fire Department officials also refused
to recalculate the fire capacity of
his new addition, albeit, this happened under the watch of Jan Jones, the
previous Mayor. The surprise addition caused overflow parking problems
in the neighborhood, so much so that Rizzolo's next door neighbor, Marshall
Russo, Inc. placed concrete barriers on their property to block Crazy Horse
After irate neighbors
filed suit against the City, Rizzolo's lawyer falsely told the City
Council he had leased Marshall Russo's parking lot. The City took no action
and the neighbor's lawsuit was soon dismissed by a friendly judge. However,
the barricades remain on Marshall Russo's property to this day and bar
patrons park in the nearby residential neighborhood.
Thursday morning while his business was surrounded by FBI agents who
were busy scavenging through the Crazy Horse, Barrier made a call to police
to report the improperly parked truck. Barrier fumed that if the truck
belonged to one of his garage customers, it would have been impounded.
Metro did not respond to Barrier's complaint. It has become customary
for the police to only respond to parking complaints called in by the Crazy
Horse. After waiting a hour, a friend of Barrier summoned an idle police
officer from in front of the besieged bar.
According to witnesses, the officer observed the truck and immediately
walked over to Ralph Rizzolo. His action indicated that he personally knew
who owned the truck and wished to inform him of the complaint. According
to witnesses, Rick Rizzolo's brother stubbornly did not remove his vehicle
for several more hours and the officer did not protest his inaction even
though the Fire Lane remained partially blocked. Barrier believed that
the cop did Rizzolo a favor, something that certain Vegas police officers
have often been accused of in the past, and something he felt the feds
needed to know. With Barrier's urging, the anomaly was reported to federal
officers along with the Vegas cop's badge number.
In the meantime Rick Rizzolo who was out of town during the raid was
contacted by his sister, the Reverend Annette
Marie Patterson, and told of the situation. He arrived shortly thereafter
to help prepare for the reopening of the topless bar. The bar opened to
a sparse crowd later
that evening after new cash registers were obtained.
Following the Mayor's visit to my home, I was asked my opinion as to
he came? I could not answer the question. I'm usually one of Goodman's
biggest fans because I know he has our city's best interest at heart, but
this time his allegiance to several of his former clients appears to be
taking precedence over his love of our community. His nervous visit may
have reflected that fact.
After the Mayor refused to bring a Show Cause, federal agents came in
to clean up a mess Goodman could have handled in ten minutes. Our city
has been disgraced. Now it may too late help Goodman or his colleague Mike
McDonald. If their names appear in documents confiscated during the
raid or on the lips of informants, the legendary Operation Yobo may be
made to look like child's play!
#1. Attorney Tony Sgro, who represents the Crazy Horse, said Rizzolo
plans to sue
the federal government to recoup money he lost during the raid (Hello!).
He estimated that the closure cost the bar between $40,000 and $60,000.
#2. On January 12, 2001, attorney Sgro on behalf of Rick Rizzolo, filed
a Defamation of Character lawsuit against this writer. In his complaint,
Sgro alleged that I falsely accused his client of "Illegal and unethical
activities." (Hello again!) A trial is scheduled for June 3, in
the court of District Judge Jennifer Togliatti - that's if Rizzolo is still
Al Capone and John Gotti must be spinning in their graves!
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com