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Even packs of friends may not protect ex-Pure nightclub boss in tax case

It’s nice to have friends, and it appears Strip nightclub impresario Steve Davidovici has plenty.

The former operator of the popular Pure nightclub and creator of the Sugar Factory candy franchise will need every one he can get as he faces a scheduled Wednesday sentencing in U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson’s courtroom for filing a false income tax return.

Friendship is relative, especially in Las Vegas, but defense attorneys David Chesnoff and Steve Toscher recently submitted a 26-page sentencing memorandum on Davidovici’s behalf that is bursting with praise from old friends and new acquaintances alike.

If I didn’t know better, I would think the man nicknamed “Stevie D.” was in the upscale nightclub business because he missed the chance to join the Peace Corps.

The memo is so full of stories of his charitable contributions that even skeptical observers of his criminal trouble might be tempted to forget Pure skimmed a fortune in untaxed profits before it was interrupted by IRS Criminal Investigation agents.

“Mr. Davidovici deserves to have his misconduct, which occurred more than five years ago, assessed in the context of his entire life to date,” his biographers wrote.

“If ever a defendant has earned a second chance, it is this man. The crime for which he is to be punished is utterly aberrant to his character, which the record will show is built upon integrity, honesty, decency, family commitment, hard work and generosity.”

Davidovici’s fan letter includes impressive endorsements from Mirage President Felix Rappaport and attorneys James Jimmerson, David Brown and Donald Campbell. Business partners such as Perry Rogers are heard from with several of his loyal employees.

His difficult childhood and recent diagnosis of acute optic neuropathy are dramatically noted. His love of family and sick friends is memorialized in substantial detail.

Here is the trouble with producing such an over-the-top portrayal of Steve Davidovici as a one-in-a-million superstar who stubbed his toe: It doesn’t prevent government lawyers from replying to the defense’s sales job. And Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally and Department of Justice Tax Division trial attorneys Christopher Maietta and Joseph Rillotta take a mallet to Davidovici’s pre-sentencing makeover in an 11-page memorandum that calls him an unrepentant liar whose nightclub skimming only ceased on the day federal agents raided his offices. They called for a “high-end” 18-month sentence.

“There is much in the record of this case that the Court should find troubling,” they wrote.

“Regrettably, Mr. Davidovici’s lies to the IRS were not aberrations as he claims. With similar nonchalance, Mr. Davidovici lied and concealed facts from his auditors and investors, he misled licensing authorities, and most recently, he made deceptive submissions to the court. Moreover, Defendant not only concealed his own income from the IRS, he encouraged and enabled his subordinates to do the same, and he benefited financially from this broader under-the-table payment scam.”

Davidovici also retaliated against former Pure officials Greg Jarmolowich and Frank Tucker, the men most responsible for dumping out the operation:

“Mr. Davidovici intimidated whistle-blowers, boasting gleefully about how he would make it impossible for them to work on the Las Vegas Strip again, even stealing data from their personnel files in order to execute his vendettas against them.”

When Jarmolowich sought employment at a Wynn Las Vegas nightclub, Davidovici bragged about ruining his chances in an epithet-laced conversation that was recorded and suggests he is not always so charitable.

He also gathered the addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses with the goal of seeing Tucker and Jarmolowich shut out of the nightclub racket.

“This is not a sign of a good citizen, and is most certainly not the sign of a reformed man,” they wrote.

The government memo illustrates the sweet deal the Sugar Factory founder received. He copped to one felony, but prosecutors suggest he might have been convicted of several others.

They note, “In 2005 and 2006 alone, Defendant concealed at least $403,732.”

His syrupy defense memorandum aside, Stevie D. will discover who his real friends are after Wednesday’s sentencing.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.

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