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Infamous high roller: Why isn’t Rick Rizzolo in the Black Book?

By John L. Smith

The saga of the Crazy Horse Too topless club in Las Vegas has briefly returned to the news because of Kirk Henry’s recent death in Kansas.

Henry was the tourist who, in September 2001, made the mistake of accompanying a work supervisor to the Industrial Road cabaret owned by mob associate Rick Rizzolo and then disputing an $88 bar tab. Henry was assaulted in the club’s parking lot and nearly killed by a manager hoodlum named Bobby D’Apice.

Henry survived a broken neck, but became a quadriplegic. During his life he struggled with a variety of medical maladies related to his injury. When he died last week, he was 58.

Henry didn’t know it then, but he was going up against one of the most well-connected wiseguys in Las Vegas history. Rizzolo wasn’t just any strip club owner. He was easily the most popular club operator in Las Vegas. For years he was also an extremely generous contributor to politicians and judges in Southern Nevada. His Christmas parties drew so many elected officials that they might have violated the state’s Opening Meeting law.

D’Apice eventually served 41 months for his role in the crime. After a widespread racketeering investigation that included tax evasion, Rizzolo pleaded guilty in June 2006 to a single felony charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. As part of the resolution, Henry’s family was awarded a $10 million civil judgment. The case faded from the headlines, only to return when it became clear Rizzolo had no intention of making good on the full amount.

A recession didn’t help. The Crazy Horse Too lost its profitability when Rizzolo and fellow mobbed-up criminal Vinny Faraci were sent packing from the property, once valued at more than $30 million. It later sold for $3 million, which was added to the $1 million which Henry initially received.

From there, attorneys Donald Campbell and Stan Hunterton and a team of investigators scoured the local, regional, national, and international landscape for Rizzolo’s stashes. They found plenty, including a fraudulently transferred ownership in a Philadelphia topless club, and a multimillion-dollar account tucked in the far-away tax haven of the Cook Islands. That account was exposed accidentally by Rizzolo’s ex-wife, Lisa Rizzolo, in a deposition.

As time passed, Rizzolo served a year in prison and later violated the conditions of his parole by living a lifestyle well above his stated means. He returned to the penitentiary for a short stay and later incurred more tax charges on undeclared income.

But gone were the days when Rizzolo received the high-roller treatment at Strip casino resorts. In those days, he was a free-spending gambler known to pay in cash, and pay quickly. As the story goes, with a phone call, one of his assistants would be dispatched from his club with a briefcase of cash to make good on what was owed.

Rizzolo and the Bonanno crime family soldier Faraci also made friends on the Strip with their never-ending supply of beautiful young party girls. For several years Faraci was especially popular at the Pure nightclub. Rizzolo was only too happy to play the gracious host to high-betting gamblers and high-profile Hollywood celebrities, making the private VIP lounge available for their off-the-record enjoyment.

By the end of the Crazy Horse Too era, Rizzolo and his crew had been exposed for their many mob connections and violent tendencies. The club had been the site of hundreds of police calls for service over the years.

With all that, I am left with a question: Why hasn’t Rick Rizzolo’s name been added to Nevada’s infamous “List of Excluded Persons,” better known as the Black Book?

He certainly qualifies on all accounts. From a felony conviction to mob association, there’s little doubt that he’d fit comfortably next to the state’s rogue’s gallery of cheats and hoodlums.

But for some reason one of the things Rizzolo seemed most concerned about when he was under investigation was to avoid being banned from setting foot in Nevada casinos. Why isn’t he?

With Kirk Henry’s death, that seems like a reasonable question to be asked again.

John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author. Contact him at jlnevadasmith@gmail.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith