Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2018

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Embattled Club Paradise chief transfers ownership

Sam Cecola has been barred from paradise.

Cecola has agreed to transfer ownership of the upscale Club Paradise strip club at 4416 Paradise Road to his wife, Geralyn. He also has agreed to never step foot in the club, be an officer or shareholder, or be involved in its management under an agreement to avoid pending disciplinary proceedings.

Cecola, who has been sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for tax fraud, also has given up his Clark County liquor license and agreed to never again apply for a county liquor or gaming license.

The County Commission, sitting as the Clark County Liquor and Gaming Board, unanimously accepted the terms of the agreement Tuesday and granted a limited license to Cecola's wife until June while Metro completes its background check to determine her suitability to hold a liquor license.

"Isn't Nevada a community-property state and his handing it to her means he still maintains an interest?" Commissioner Lance Malone asked, concerned that Cecola would still be running the club through his wife.

"This agreement means he has no more future involvement in Clark County, can never enter the premises of Club Paradise, and can never file application for suitability," Ardel Jorgensen, business license director, said.

Any failure to meet the conditions of the agreement will result in the immediate revocation of Club Paradise's liquor license, she said.

The agreement was drawn up between the Clark County Business License Department, Las Vegas Metro Police, the Clark County district attorney and Cecola's attorney, Dominic Gentile.

"The important part of that agreement is he acknowledges he's not suitable to hold a liquor license and will not apply for another license in Clark County," Jorgensen said.

The agreement requires Cecola to transfer his 71.75 percent ownership of the Ro-Jac Corp. to his wife. Under the reconfiguration, she will be a 69.66 percent shareholder, president Joseph Demeo will own 9.95 percent and the remaining 20.39 percent of the company will be divided among other shareholders.

Demeo, a current officer of Club Paradise, already has been investigated and cleared by Metro.

Cecola also agreed to never exercise any management or oversight or have any operational responsibilities, financial management or decision-making responsibilities at any liquor-licensed location in the county.

Shortly after opening in 1993, Club Paradise attracted the attention of Metro and Business License investigators, who witnessed patrons and dancers fondling each other and dancers under 21 near the service area.

Cecola has said the club was a big improvement over the former business that occupied that location, the Pussycat Theater.

Investigators had visited the club more than 20 times, culminating in a raid in June 1994 that led to money-laundering charges against Cecola and two business partners. Those charges were later dismissed with prejudice, and Cecola was granted a county liquor license in February 1995 over Metro's objections.

In April 1996, Cecola was named in a 22-count indictment that also named a reputed member of "The Outfit," or Chicago organized crime, of similar tax violations.

The government charged Cecola, 51; reputed mobster Frank Panno, 63; John Spudeas, 60; Spero Palladinos, 67; and Raymond Magray, 49, of skimming money from adult bookstores in Illinois, Wisconsin and two in Las Vegas.

Panno and Palladinos were suspected of holding an interest in A-Action Adult Books & Videos, 1016 S. First St., and Venus Unlimited, 1500 S. Main St., in Las Vegas. Cecola, Panno, Spudeas and Palladinos were accused of being hidden owners of Ogden Books Inc. in Illinois and Odyssey Video in Wisconsin.

Cecola denied having a partial ownership in the Midwest bookstores, explaining that the federal agents assumed he would be a secret partner because he knows the bookstores' owners.

Cecola was convicted in February 1997 on one count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and five counts of filing a false return under penalty of perjury.

He was sentenced last September to 46 months on the first count and to 36 months on each other count, to run concurrently with the first count, for a total of 46 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Cecola also was ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.

Gentile did not return a call to verify whether Cecola has reported to the Bureau of Prisons to start serving his jail time.