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Justice on hold: Feds unable to put Rizzolo matter to rest

Welcome back to Las Vegas, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden.

A lot has changed in Southern Nevada since you and eight other U.S. attorneys were unceremoniously sacked in 2007 by the Bush administration’s brain trust. You first held the office in 2001, then returned to replace Greg Brower in early October after a little arm-twisting from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Here it is December, and you’ve surely noticed the effects of the recession on the once-glowing Las Vegas economy. Today’s opening of the Aria resort at the $8.5 billion CityCenter project by MGM Mirage and Dubai World is looked upon by locals as a hopeful sign Las Vegas one day might regain its lost luster.

Before the mortgage crisis, not many people were talking about mortgage fraud, but these days the FBI, state authorities and your office are busy building cases against scammers.

Plenty has changed in a short time in Las Vegas, but one thing remains the same: Your office has failed to slam the books on former Vegas topless mogul Rick Rizzolo and the sale of his infamous Crazy Horse Too. In fact, I’ll wager that embarrassing apparition continues to haunt your office as it tries to handle an increasingly diverse caseload.

After all, we’re not just talking about the criminal antics of some skin merchant. We’re talking about slick Rick and a case that includes the September 2001 crippling of Kansas tourist Kirk Henry in the parking lot outside the Crazy Horse Too. Henry’s neck was broken and nearly wrenched from his shoulders by one of Rizzolo’s cologne-soaked goons.

Your office in 2006 prosecuted and settled the case, grabbing a long list of relatively minor convictions, Rizzolo’s agreement to sell the club, leave the topless racket and pay $10 million for Kirk and Amy Henry. The mobster-friendly Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day. The Henrys received $1 million up front and agreed to wait a reasonable amount of time before receiving the remaining $9 million.

They’re still waiting.

Waiting is something Kirk Henry, a quadriplegic who spends his days in an electric wheelchair, has become good at. Henry’s wife, Amy, could teach a graduate seminar in the art of waiting.

While they’ve been waiting, Rizzolo has been busy ducking and shucking.

Not only has he claimed to have been unable to make good on the deal your office crafted, but in recent months, the Rizzolo family, including ex-wife Lisa, has had its multimillion-dollar offshore bank accounts unearthed in a related civil case.

I understand Rizzolo doesn’t want to pay the $9 million (excluding interest) he owes the Henrys.

I would be grateful if someone could persuade him to pay the Henrys just the cash he gambles as a Strip high roller. Add to that the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s so generously contributed to political and judicial campaigns in recent years, and that $9 million debt would be whittled substantially.

To make your office an even bigger laughingstock on this issue, in the Henrys’ ongoing civil case Rizzolo has been signing legal documents he didn’t author. His friend, the multiple felony offender/paralegal James Kimsey has apparently been ghostwriting for Rizzolo.

It’s a relief to see you’ve assigned an assistant U.S. attorney to what appears to be a pretty clear example of contempt of court for practicing law without a license.

A lot has changed in Las Vegas since you’ve been away, Mr. Bogden, but Rizzolo has proven more resilient than that battery-powered bunny. For crying out loud, man, it’s nearly 2010.

As long as the Henrys’ compensation is allowed to languish, justice will remain undone — and your office will continue to play the chump for a wiseguy who lets a felon do his homework.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

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