Las Vegas Sun

December 6, 2021

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Ex-strip club owner can return to work

Metro Police and Clark County licensing officials Monday agreed to allow banished former Club Paradise owner Sam Cecola to go back to work at the topless club as a key employee.

In return, Cecola and his lawyer, Dominic Gentile, agreed to drop a lawsuit alleging police falsely linked him to Chicago mob figures and forced him to sign a March 9, 1998, agreement surrendering his liquor license and banning Cecola from setting foot in the club.

The agreement was signed several months after Cecola was convicted on tax charges in Chicago for skimming money from adult bookstores in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Under this week's six-page settlement, signed by Gentile and Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Janssen, the agreement is voided.

Gentile said the settlement allows Cecola to immediately enter Club Paradise, now run by his wife, Geralyn, and go to work as a consultant as soon as he files an application with police for a key employee license.

Cecola planned to file an application as early as Thursday, Gentile said.

As part of the settlement, Cecola has to bring police up to date on his financial holdings. He still could be denied a key employee license if police uncover new evidence of improper conduct.

"It's in everybody's interest for him to have a full, fair and open investigation into his suitability to hold a key employee license," Metro legal counsel Kathryn Landreth said this morning.

Gentile added: "More than anything else, this shows the current sheriff and administration is taking a brand new and apparently unbiased approach to this."

Cecola alleged in his suit that he was the victim of a smear campaign by Metro Police intelligence detectives who falsely linked him to Chicago organized crime figures. The allegations played a role in persuading officials to force him out of Club Paradise after his tax conviction, as well as persuading state gaming agents to nominate him for Nevada's Black Book, a list of undesirables banned from casinos.

The state Gaming Control Board withdrew its nomination in August 2001 after Gentile presented evidence that police had erred in linking Cecola to the Chicago mob figures.

Cecola also contended in the suit that he signed the 1998 agreement giving up the club under duress. At the time, the suit said, Cecola was was secretly assisting federal authorities in Chicago in a probe into organized crime and could not divulge his cooperation to local officials out of fear for his life and the lives of his family.

As a result, he was unable to explain to local authorities that he was a victim not an associate of organized crime, the suit said.

Cecola, the suit said, testified that he was forced to pay a "street tax" to Chicago mobsters for the privilege of operating adult entertainment businesses there.

Cecola's cooperation led to the 1999 federal indictment and later conviction of several Chicago mob figures, the suit said.

His inability to assist his wife in the operation of Club Paradise, the suit said, has been hurting the Las Vegas business.