Uncle Sam now owns strip club

Thu, Aug 30, 2007 (8:11 a.m.)

Another page in the saga of Rick Rizzolo was written Wednesday when U.S. marshals seized the notorious Crazy Horse Too, his former strip club on Industrial Road.

The federal government's move is its latest attempt to extract $17 million in court-ordered fines, forfeitures and settlements from Rizzolo, who received a 366-day prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to tax evasion.

The seizure, which enables the government to sell the property or collect rent from it, was approved in an order signed this month by U.S. District Judge Philip Pro.

Rizzolo became the club's majority owner two years after his father bought it in 1984. Over time he transformed the small operation into a 26,000-square-foot business with 1,500 dancers and monthly gross sales of $800,000 to $1 million. He estimated that the business attracted 600,000 to 700,000 customers a year.

As the cash rolled in Rizzolo became a major political contributor.

But law enforcement authorities long alleged that he and some of his employees had ties to reputed mobsters. And the rough treatment some of Rizzolo's customers received generated negative headlines over the years.

The biggest of those centered on customer Kirk Henry, who was paralyzed as the result of an altercation at the club in 2001. He sued Rizzolo and was awarded $10 million, still unpaid.

The government's seizure of the club, which was closed last month when the Las Vegas City Council revoked its liquor license after a proposed sale fell through, came as welcome news to neighboring businessman "Buffalo" Jim Barrier, a repair shop owner and wrestling promoter who has a pending $1 million harassment lawsuit against Rizzolo.

"I knew it was coming," Barrier said of the seizure. "The government had to do it to get the money to pay off the people Rizzolo owes money to, because he doesn't want to pay anybody a dime. So I'm very happy. It's a day of celebration for me."

The government action means an uncertain future for the club, although there are offers to buy it , rang ing from $29 million to $34 million.

The U.S. attorney's office and Rizzolo 's attorney Anthony Sgro did not return calls Wednesday.

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