An Excerpt from
"Breaks, Brains and Balls: the Story of Joe Conforte and Nevada's fabulous Mustang Ranch"
Coming soon to a bookstore near you.
In 1997 Joe had been out of the country for six years and was living in grand style in Santiago Chile. He and his former attorney and partner Pete Perry had been indicted by a federal grand jury two years earlier, and Perry had made a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify for the government. With Perry's connivance, The Mustang Ranch, seized by the IRS in 1990, had been sold at auction to the AGE Corporation of London, England — which Joe himself controlled.


"I sent a letter to federal judge Kibbens. He was on my case, in fact he was the judge on the trial afterwards. I sent him a letter, I said, 'If you will grant me bail, I will come voluntarily.' Because I know if I turn myself in now, I'd have to come all the way to Nevada in shackles.

"But I was talking from a point of view that I was in charge, not them. In Chile. That was more bluff than anything else because I knew the judge was going to turn it down. He never answered back, he didn't even rule on it. But it was bluff to show them, 'Fuck yourself, you can't do nothing.' That's what I thought.

"To get to my house from downtown Santiago we had to go past the American embassy, and every time I passed by, I would say to the people I had with me, 'Look at those fucking assholes. They know that I'm here, I'm living just ten blocks away from them, and they know that they want me, but they can't do a fucking thing.'

"I was calling the Ranch almost every day, running everything at the Ranch from Chile. And in October of '97 my lawyer in San Francisco was trying to make this deal, he went to Vegas and they tried to make this deal. I would have went through with the jail time, with everything, except when they wanted the Mustang Ranch. This Shiffer, he was a son of a bitch, and he insisted that they wanted the Mustang Ranch. Now if I'd have thought a little more, I'd have given them Mustang Ranch and built a new one right next door. But I didn't think that way — I didn't want to give them the ranch. I thought that I could leave the Ranch with somebody else until I get out. I didn't think! So that's why we never made a deal.

"Now, one of the times I was in my house in Chile, the federal prosecutor makes a statement in the Reno paper, 'Well, we know where he is but we can't touch him.' I was in Chile then, so I thought I was safe. So when I came back to Rio I called him. 'Well, why don't you come back to the states," he starts telling me. I said, "I can't come back. I've got acid reflux, my doctor tells me I can't fly.'

"But, I called my attorney from San Francisco, and I said, 'I want to make a deal. I want to come back to the states and I want to make a deal.' So finally they met in Las Vegas, and they were all there: Schiffer, Barr, all of them — the Strike Force. They offered me two years in prison — I didn't so much mind that. It's not paradise, but I was willing to do that. A federal prison is usually clean, they have good food and all that.

"And I would have to pay a million dollars. It's worth it, to clear up all the IRS shit.

"I still had all the juice in Storey County, I could have given them the Mustang Ranch and then just built a new place next door. Just build another one. Because I was still the power in Storey County. The Commission was still mine, Henry Bland was still there, everybody knew that he was in my pocket, and the Sheriff, Bob Del Carlo. So I could have come right out and built another one right next door, on somebody else's ground where they couldn't touch it. But I didn't think of it.

"So I turned down the deal. Stupid. Well, you know how sometimes things look bad and then they turn out better? Things turned out better."