The wiseguy charade is over. It’s time to sell the Crazy Horse Too topless club.
That’s the message federal authorities are sending after finally losing their patience with the club’s incarcerated owner, Rick Rizzolo. Informed sources confirm officials from the FBI, IRS and U.S. attorney’s office are preparing to take over the Crazy Horse Too and liquidate it now that Rizzolo’s thinly veiled attempt to sell the notorious jiggle joint to suspected strawman Michael Signorelli has turned into a bona fide belly laugh.
Investigators and prosecutors must be frustrated after watching the deal they carved out bust out.
Rizzolo currently squats in a cell at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center due to a shortage of beds at the more-relaxed Taft Federal Correctional Institution. He lost his freedom following a June 2006 guilty plea on tax charges.
Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day and agreed to pay fines, forfeitures and assessments totaling nearly $17 million, but avoided a lengthy trial and the possibility of up to a dozen years in prison.
In all, $9 million of a $10 million settlement is still owed to Kansas tourist Kirk Henry, whose neck was broken outside the club following a beating over an $88 bar bill.
The Henry beating incident was a key component in a lengthy FBI, IRS and Las Vegas police investigation of suspected organized crime activity at the Industrial Road club. The investigation led to the convictions of Rizzolo and 15 others. Most of the convictions were for minor tax violations.
As part of his deal, Rizzolo agreed to sell his club. Now it looks like the feds are going to don their Century 21 coats and move Rizzolo’s real estate in a timely manner.
Rizzolo’s pending deal with Signorelli, presuming it ever had a shred of legitimacy, was used successfully to keep the club open and licensed by the Las Vegas City Council. Mention of the sales agreement and its high probability of coming to fruition was also employed in U.S. District Court earlier this year in an unsuccessful attempt to allow Rizzolo an extra three days of freedom before reporting to prison.
Did Rizzolo’s defense counsel accurately portray the likelihood of the business sale to U.S. District Judge Philip Pro? And just how real was the deal?
Federal investigators might already be asking themselves those questions.
In light of the flimsy facts surrounding Signorelli’s personal finances, that defense document is sure to be scrutinized for its truthfulness. And don’t be surprised if you start hearing about possible obstruction of justice charges in this case.
Local attorney Mark Hafer had the arguable misfortune of representing Rizzolo and his Power Company interests in a hearing Thursday morning in District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez’s courtroom in a civil case involving auto shop owner Jim Barrier. Known as “Buffalo Jim,” he has been a human heat rash on Rizzolo since the two business neighbors began feuding many years ago.
Near the end of the hearing, Hafer said of the Signorelli deal, “That was a legitimate attempt to sell the business and the property of the Crazy Horse Plaza. The buyer did not perform. He did not put any money into escrow. He had until today, May 31, to deposit $38 million dollars. He hasn’t done it. He hasn’t put a dollar into escrow. That deal isn’t going to close.”
On Friday, Hafer was more optimistic: “The Crazy Horse deal is not dead yet. A sale of the Crazy Horse has been contracted with Mr. Signorelli, but he has not yet closed the deal.”
Hafer was right both times — word is there are four other interested buyers — but it again raises the issue of whether Signorelli was ever close to putting together a deal. Despite a police report that linked Rizzolo to the new “owner,” the City Council voted in April to grant Signorelli a permanent liquor license for the Crazy Horse Too. Now the council looks like a bunch of rubes.
That’s nothing new. The Crazy Horse Too saga has been making local politicians look like suckers for years.
Federal authorities don’t plan to follow suit, and they’ll sell the Crazy Horse Too themselves if they have to.
I wonder, do they get to keep the real estate commission?
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0295.JOHN L. SMITHMORE COLUMNSDiscuss this column in the eForums!