San Diego's shame is
Vegas' standard game
and unidentified woman Rick Rizzolo
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
September 8, 2003
The people of San Diego have a right to
an open and honest government. We are committed to ensuring that San Diego
is represented by officials who are free from corrupt influences.
Atty. Carol Lam
There's no prostitution taking place, and
if there was, they should arrest them, not make some big fuss as to what
some 18-year-old girl is doing to make a living. - Las
Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman
He violated department policies prohibiting
officers from accepting gifts from suspects and consorting with persons
of ill repute. - Las
Vegas Sheriff Bill Young
LAS VEGAS - Three years of federal organized crime
and political corruption investigations came to a head when Vegas
based topless bar owner Mike Galardi made a clandestine effort to change
a law so his San Diego strippers could legally give physical contact to
patrons just like they are allowed to do in his home town.
In Vegas, Galardi has always been able to let
his dancers - many under the age of 21 - vanish into back rooms to have
physical contact with club patrons, contact that includes "friction" and
"lap" dancing. San Diego authorities have strict rules against such physical
contact and the exploitation of teenagers. Now, federal agents say they've
uncovered a failed scheme
masterminded by Galardi to change the no-contact law in the coastal town.
Meanwhile, back in Sin City, the differences between
what is tolerated in strip joints here and in San Diego are beginning to
stand out like a sore thumb, as evidenced by recent statements from a topless
"While I was employed at the (Las Vegas)
Horse Too, the 'dancers' engaged in an activity called a 'friction dance'
wherein the male customer puts on a condom and the dancer straddles the
customer and manipulates her body against the male customer so as to arose
or gratify the sexual desire of the male customer." This statement
is part of the federal probe of a Vegas strip bar owned by Galardi's competitor
Regarding the same Vegas club, former federal
prosecutors Stan Hunterton and Don Campbell recently filed documents
alleging Rizzolo condones an "environment that has bred rampant lawlessness.
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."
However, in contrast to what aroused San Diego
authorities, in Vegas this type of behavior is often overlooked as just
another day in paradise. For many years political campaign
contributions have kept Sin City politicians
in tow, and other arrangements
have been made to keep Vegas law
enforcement officials at bay in the face of many violent
incidents and blatant infractions of Nevada
law. It has also been reported that up to $20,000 per night in skimmed
cash is paid
to Vegas cab drivers to deliver customers to certain topless bars while
the state Taxi Authority turns its back. However, 300 miles away in San
Diego its a different story.
Las Vegas Review Journal cartoon by Jim Day, Sunday Sept. 7, 2003
Three San Diego City councilmen have been indicted
and accused of accepting bribes, something historically acceptable in my
town where campaign contributions from corporations are legal even when
donor's names are not revealed or they're instead made in cash. In San
Diego, politicians face years in prison for accepting "bundled" campaign
contributions that pale in size compared to their Sin City counterparts.
Maybe that's why San Diego prides itself in being called "America's Finest
Then there is the San Diego detective who repeatedly
Cheetahs managers about scheduled raids by the vice unit in exchange for
cash, but in actuality was working with the FBI. The rest of the detective's
unit was unaware of the arrangement though some became suspicious
because few, if any, violations were found over long periods of time.
A comparative situation occurred in Las Vegas.
Hundreds of police responses including nine assault
and six robbery cases all involving Crazy Horse Too employees went without
arrests or prosecution over a three year period. It was later discovered
that a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police sergeant had accepted but never paid
back a $15,000 "loan" from Rick Rizzolo, though this association was never
proven to be responsible for the lack of violations or arrests. The officer
has since been reprimanded
by Clark County Sheriff Bill Young.
When a Vegas strip bar owner or real estate developer
wants to secretly invest in a friendly politician's career, few in Nevada
care if checks are written in the name of his kids, suppliers, phantom
corporations, LLCs, or several dozen employees who he later reimburses.
"Bundling" is business as usual around here. In fact, in a recent city
council election a winning candidate allegedly failed
to report at least $100,000 in cash campaign contributions, and almost
got away with it.
I ran for office in Nevada several times during
the late 1980s and early 1990s. On one occasion I readily accepted - and
reported - cash donations of $20,000 from the Horseshoe Casino, $15,000
from the Golden Goose, and $5,000 from the El Cortez. I legally accepted
bundled donations of $5,000 each from the family members of the owner of
another downtown casino who didn't want my enemies to know he was supporting
me, and I accepted bundled checks from the families and employees of several
prominent real estate developers and attorneys who felt the same way.
One casino owner personally donated a small check,
but called on each of the suppliers of a business he owned in Florida to
make larger contributions. They couldn't refuse. Of course I knew who inspired
the out of state checks. My total collected in one election amounted
to $342,000 of which $40,000 was cash. As long as the amounts and names
on the checks were reported to the Nevada Secretary of State - no laws
were broken then, or would be broken now.
Of course, I could also have pocketed much of
the cash and reported only a fraction without being detected in Nevada,
a state with the most lax campaign funding laws in the nation.
Incidentally, the Galardi family wrote me three
checks from their "Mr. G's Catering Company" account totaling $15,000.
At the time, no one raised an eyebrow even though the checks were signed
by Jack Galardi, Mike's dad. This is business as usual in Nevada and has
always been considered perfectly legal. But this is not the case in California.
During the past several weeks, I've been interviewed
Diego reporters. One of the most asked questions is "What is the reaction
to the San Diego scandal in Las Vegas?" I answer that most political observers
here think its comical that so many people are in such big trouble in America's
Finest City for doing what is done every day out in the open in Sin City.
Are we so callous in Nevada that the bribing of
cops and government officials doesn't faze us? The only thing that appears
to be disturbing Vegas movers and shakers is all the negative publicity
being generated in California by the indictments and the fact that suspicious
Nevada contributors may now come under scrutiny
and therefore be less generous in future elections. Otherwise, little has
changed in the Silver State.
In fact, Las Vegas' current and former mayor along with Mike Galardi,
Rick Rizzolo and Nevada's governor own second homes not far from San Diego,
though the higher standards of the area obviously have not rubbed off on
Nevada's "Pillars of the community."
Before the May 14, 2003 San Diego busts few Las
Vegans took the federal organized crime investigation seriously. On February
20, 2003 when 80 federal agents raided Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too, few Nevada
officials took notice. The Crazy Horse raid followed the beating of Kansas
tourist Kirk Henry who on Sept. 20, 2001 suffered a broken neck and quadriplegia
allegedly at the hands of Rizzolo's bouncers. In the face of this information
when asked to bring the Crazy Horse up on an administrative action, Las
Vegas Mayor Oscar Mayor Goodman refused.
Then Henry from his electric wheelchair hired
the powerful Nevada law firm of retired federal prosecutors Don Campbell
and Stan Hunterton who on October 2, 2001, sued Rizzolo and his business.
Coincidentally, the FBI raid of the Crazy Horse followed shortly thereafter.
Kirk Henry's attempted murder trial is set for
February 17, 2004.
In March 2003, Crazy Horse lawyers said the Sixth
Amendment rights of Rizzolo were violated and they want to hold the two
lead FBI agents in contempt
of court for not revealing that documents allegedly protected by attorney-client
privilege had been "illegally seized" during the raid and reviewed by investigators.
Rizzolo demanded that the documents, video tapes, hard drives, and ATM
machines seized and sent to FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia for
scientific examination be immediately returned. His attorneys alleged the
material contained privileged correspondence regarding personal injury,
attempted murder, and wrongful death lawsuits against the Crazy Horse and
Rizzolo. A Vegas judge is currently reviewing Rizzolo's request.
Some believe Galardi simply was in the wrong place
at the wrong time and got caught up in the fury of a federal organized
crime operation intended to nail Rizzolo and his political and alleged
Or maybe a friendly rivalry exists between the FBI office in San Diego
and their prestigious Organized Crime Task Force counterparts temporarily
stationed in Vegas, and that the Galardi bust was the first in a competition
between federal agencies to bring down organized crime in west coast strip
So be it, but the vast expenditure of time and
resources taken in regard to the initial Rizzolo raid are still pending
indictments. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
When you consider the severity, or comparitive
lack thereof, of the allegations against Galardi and compare them to those
against Rizzolo, the next few weeks promise to make the Galardi goings
on look like an opening act in a Vegas showroom while the headliner in
this organized crime extravaganza is nervously waiting in the wings.
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com