INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
February 3, 2002

"Coercion" is an act by a person or persons against the will or without the permission of another person with respect to his body or property. It means for someone to take, use, meddle with or otherwise do something to the body or property of another person without the permission or against the will of that person. This includes fraud and embezzlement and other indirect uses of force as well as direct physical violence.

Dear Mr. Miller,

I read your article on the Crazy Horse Too with interest, because on the night of December 6, 2002 myself and an employee of mine visited this topless club. We began talking to two dancers, and were invited to the "Emperor's  Room."

On the way in, we were informed that the charge for being in the VIP room was $400 per hour.  We accepted this and were seated.  After approximately 35 minutes, the dancer who was tending to me began asking if she could bill us for another hour.  When I took issue with the fact that we had only been there a short time, she continued with her assertion that it had been an hour.

I asked for documentation of the time we entered the VIP room, and was told that none existed.  When I persisted, and pointed out the difficulties of billing by the hour when there are no records of when people entered, she finally went to get a receipt.

The register receipt showed that we had been in the VIP room for 31 minutes. Rather than agreeing that she had miscalculated the time, she argued that the difference was due to the amount of time it took us to get drinks.  This made no sense because we ordered drinks after we went through the register at the front, so that time was included in the 31 minutes.

I asked to see a supervisor, and the gentleman from the register came over.  When I explained the situation, his response was not to address the issue, but to tell me that I was not supposed to have a copy of the register timestamp receipt, and he demanded that I give it back to him.

I refused, and he continued to get more hostile, insisting that whatever time we had been there constituted a full hour, so I asked to see a manager.  The  manager "Vinny" came over surrounded by several  large bouncers.  My discussions with him resulted in a decision that he would pro-rate the time to 35 minutes.

Although this sounds like a somewhat reasonable compromise, I was being treated with hostility, and no one was addressing the issue that the dancer and register operator had attempted to coerce me into acceptance of grossly inaccurate billing. We were taken to a cash register in the back, where I was presented with a bill for $610.  I indicated to the manager that I did not agree with this billing. He was free to place the charges on my credit card, since they already had my card in their possession, but I would not sign the receipt and I would protest the amount with the credit card company.

We were then escorted to a door, which as soon as I stepped out, I realized it was the back door to an alleyway.  My employee, who may have been more perceptive than myself, turned around and offered to pay whatever they had asked. (He told me later that his dancer had been suggesting to him during our argument that any disagreement over pricing could result in violence.) When I turned around to see where he was going, I was blocked by one of the bouncers who made it very clear that coming back toward the door would result in violence.

My employee eventually came out, having paid $400, and carrying a refund receipt for the $610 placed on my credit card.  We got a cab and left the establishment.

The whole experience hit home to me when I researched the establishment and began seeing story after story like yours. The management of this club obviously creates an environment where any disagreement over pricing is handled with hostility, and in some cases violence.

I am glad that my situation turned out to be harmless, but I think more people need to be aware of what can happen when they enter that place.

Here is some more to the story.  I checked my credit card statement, and it turns out they gave my employee a fake refund receipt, and left the $610.00 charge on my card.  Not only that, but then they ran another transaction through after we left for $290.00!  This brings their total haul to $1,300.00, counting the $400.00 they charged my employee.

What a bunch of crooks.  I have already contacted the credit card company to start dispute procedures.

The above letter was written by an Arizona tourist who requested anonymity after telling me he feared for his safety. In respect to his wishes, I changed several details in his letter to mask his identity. Unfortunately, Paul Russo who is described below did not fare as well:

"I walked past two bouncers, I remember that, they were at the exit. And as soon as I walked out the door, POW!  Somebody clobbered me from behind, and sent me flying."  Russo says there'd been a dispute over his tab earlier, but he thought it was settled.  After he was treated for his injuries at a local hospital, Russo says he went to see Metro police. - MSNBC, December 31, 2002

Then, there was this:

(Kirk) Henry was paralyzed on a visit to Las Vegas, here outside the Crazy Horse Too Gentlemen's Club. Henry says he was trying to leave the club following a dispute over how many lap dances he paid for when a bartender or manager came up from behind...Henry says the man who tried to unscrew his head from his neck wasn’t through yet...Henry says, as he lay helpless in the parking lot, the manager or bartender came back up to him, pulled his wallet out of his pants pocket, removed Henry’s credit cards, went back in the club, and rang up 80-something dollars worth of lap dances. - MSNBC, December 26, 2002

In a November 21, 2002 KVBC TV News story, investigative reporter Glen Meek told of this incident:

The FBI is looking into whether there's pattern of customers being beaten or threatened when they objected to their tabs. "I disputed it right then and there because I didn't agree with the charges. I thought it was frivolous. And basically, I was coerced into signing the receipt." This local man -- who wanted his identity protected -- filed a police report after Crazy Horse employees put 3-thousand dollars in charges on his credit card. He says he doesn't even know how to spend 3-grand in a gentleman's club. "If I had 3-thousand dollars worth of lap dances -- I don't think I'd be walking by morning time." The man says he only signed his credit card receipt out of fear. "The bouncer, not the bouncer but the bartender said, 'If you don't sign this tab you'll get your ass kicked like anybody else around this joint.' "Basically, I was intimidated."

The story continued:

A former dancer says, "They take joy and delight in being able to hurt people. Just because. Just because they're bored. Just because they can and just because they know they'll never be held responsible for it." This former Crazy Horse Dancer says she's seen brutality -- but she's also seen bouncers simply scare customers into signing tabs. What are you gonna do if you're from the midwest and you've heard this is a Mafia town and the people that approach you are stereotypical Mafia types and they talk to you in a way that makes you believe you will disappear if you don't do it? What are you gonna do?"

Meek is not alone in his observations. Former Federal Organized Crime Strike Force prosecutor Stan Hunterton filed this statement in November 2002:

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.

On January 3, Timothy McDarrah wrote the following in the Las Vegas Sun:

Broadcast reports by Glen Meek on KVBC Channel 3 (and featured nationally on Jerry Nachman's MSNBC news talk show on Dec. 26) say the FBI has been investigating strong-arm tactics the club uses on customers who dispute what they claim are inflated tabs. On national television, Meek discussed an ongoing federal grand jury probe, from which a multicount indictment would come.

Then there was this comment from another local exotic dancer:

The cowardly 350 pound floater then charged Henry from behind and put him in the sleeper hold. He drug Henry outside and then slung him out into the parking lot, breaking his neck. The floater then went through Henry’s pockets and extracted two credit cards. He went inside to the ATM, made the charge the club wanted, and then went back outside to put his cards back in Henry’s pocket. Henry’s body lied there almost lifeless as the coward went back inside and the cabbies acted like nothing had happened. -

Alleged acts of coercion are nothing new at the Crazy Horse. The following is from an October 5, 2001 Las Vegas Sun article by Keith Paul:

Kenneth Kirkpatrick told police he and several friends went to the club May 24 for a bachelor party. Kirkpatrick and his friends had a disagreement regarding the amount of the bill and asked for the manager, according to a police report.

Kirkpatrick said security personnel threatened him. In the report he claimed he was forced to sign a charge on his Visa card for $220 and that "the bouncers were shoving (him) around."

The report states that Kirkpatrick, "being afraid he was going to be beaten, threw a punch hitting one of the bouncers. Security then knocked him to the ground and punched and kicked him in the face and back of the head. Victim's arms were grabbed and he was handcuffed. Victim then states he felt hands in his pockets."

A few minutes later his wallet was tossed into his lap, the handcuffs were taken off and he was told to leave, according to the report. Later he discovered that $140 was missing from his wallet.

The Crazy Horse Too claims to be a very successful and legitimate business enterprise. It's purported owner, Rick Rizzolo, has even been referred to as a "pillar of the community" by a local city councilman who is running for a third term - unopposed - with help from Rizzolo and his friends. However some local citizens are beginning to question what it takes to be a successful businessman, or a successful politician in modern day Vegas?

Coercion such as described above has obviously become an acceptable business practice at Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too. Why do the city fathers allow this crime to continue occurring? Maybe its because of a covert connection between the Crazy Horse Too and our city's former mob lawyer turned mayor, Oscar Goodman. Or maybe its because of the outrageous campaign contributions doled out by Mr. Rizzolo at election time. Nonetheless, it amazes me how our town's leaders turn their backs on the overwhelming evidence of coercion.

Goodman was once the mouthpiece for several close associates of Rizzolo including Joey Cusamano. In 1987, Cusamano was convicted of conspiracy, interstate travel in aid of racketeering and aiding and abetting. Goodman also is very close to ad man Tom Letizia, the PR mouthpiece for Rizzolo's joint and another mob hangout owned by Letizia's father in law who Goodman recently named "Man of the Month." Letizia is Goodman's political campaign advisor and a member of his kitchen cabinet. With Letizia's help, Goodman is running  for his second term - also unopposed - and has raised over three quarters of a million dollars in unneeded campaign contributions. After the election, numerous markers are sure to come due.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Welcome to the "New" Las Vegas.

Copyright © Steve Miller

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