Wednesday, April 13, 2005 | 10:57 a.m.
It's crunch time in the federal racketeering investigation at the Crazy Horse Too.
In an effort to streamline a decade-old case that has collected thousands of hours of wiretaps and piles of documents, federal prosecutors are trying to strike a deal with Crazy Horse Too owner Rick Rizzolo.
This explains why the topless nightclub kingpin, who is facing serious health problems, has yet to be charged in the case amid rumors since August that his indictment is imminent.
Eric Johnson, the federal prosecutor spearheading the epic probe, and Rizzolo's lead Las Vegas lawyer, Tony Sgro, don't want to talk about what's happening behind the scenes.
But I'm told that negotiations have picked up recently, and an offer from the government now is on the table.
Both sides have an incentive to strike an agreement.
For the government, it would free up more resources for other major investigations, such as the ongoing political corruption case stemming from the dirty dealings of another strip club owner, Michael Galardi.
For Rizzolo, it would mean finally getting the government off his back and a chance to start a new life.
Prosecutors already have informed Rizzolo's lawyers of the charges he's facing as the hands-on proprietor of the popular Crazy Horse Too.
They have alleged that Rizzolo condoned a pattern of lawlessness at the club.
You name it -- prostitution, drug trafficking, beating up and stealing money from customers, hiding cash from the IRS and even giving kickbacks to cabbies -- and it is reported to have taken place at the Crazy Horse.
During the investigation the FBI planted bugs everywhere at the nightclub and at some of Rizzolo's favorite upscale restaurants around town.
Lately federal authorities have put the word out that their case has been bolstered by cooperating underworld figures in New York. Jailed Bonanno crime family members are said to have provided information about Rizzolo and his activities in Las Vegas.
One of Rizzolo's former shift managers, Vinny Faraci, is the son of a reputed ranking member of the Bonanno family. Faraci abruptly parted ways with Rizzolo in February to pursue a business venture (the opening of a topless club) in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
As Rizzolo contemplates a deal, the lives of many, including his own flesh and blood, hang in the balance. Prosecutors, for example, probably would stop pursuing charges against several of Rizzolo's family members, including his father, who work at the Crazy Horse, if an agreement is reached.
The choice, however, won't be easy for Rizzolo, who has had two heart attacks and three open heart surgeries in the last several months.
The government isn't likely to accept anything less than time behind bars, a large fine and Rizzolo's permanent departure from the Crazy Horse Too.
But that may be a small price to pay if it means keeping his family together and -- at long last -- finding some peace of mind.