An Excerpt from
Breaks, Brains and Balls: the Story of Joe Conforte and Nevada's famous Mustang Ranch
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Book IX: 1979 - 1980

For the Rest of my Life, any time I need a favor I've got one. I've Got a Federal Judge in my Pocket.

In 1977 Oscar Bonavena was dead and Joe and Sally were indicted on ten counts of income tax evasion for failing to withhold taxes from Mustang Ranch employees. Convicted on four of the charges, Joe appealed, and while awaiting the judgment of the appeals court he operated as usual. By this time he'd expanded his operations into Lyon County as a partner in Kitty's Starlight Ranch. But the partnership with Kitty went sour, and again Joe became the target of a law enforcement officer eager to bring him down. This time it was the District Attorney of Lyon County, who offerred himself up to be bribed.

I was negotiating with Kitty what's the best thing to do and I let her know there was a fucking going on. I said, "Kitty, people usually don't get away with this shit." But my hands were tied, because I was under bond. I could only say so much. The case on Kitty is not closed yet. I hope Kitty reads this.

I made one big mistake by saying to her, "The Lyon County District Attorney is a friend of mine, I think he can straighten all this shit out." I made that mistake.

She told Sheriff Kingsley that I was going to the District Attorney. Giomi was at that time an innocent bystander. He didn't know what was going on.

As soon as I told her that, Kingsley goes to Giomi.

He says, "John, Joe Conforte is talking about that he's got you in his pocket. That he's going to use you to stop us from closing him down."

Now this fucking Giomi, just a young kid, gets these crazy ideas. "Here's a chance to become a big man. I might be Governor one day if I can snatch Joe Conforte."

He says, "No, he doesn't have me in his pocket, and I'll prove it to you. We'll get him." So he joins them too.

I called Giomi, and I make a meeting with him at Harolds Club in Reno. I told him what was happening, this and that. He had already contacted the State Investigation Division, and he was recording everything.

I was very careful what I was saying. I told him, "Look, I don't want nothing illegal, I just want you to represent me if you can. Let's see if we can get this thing straightened out."

Maybe I didn't express it as explicit as I could have, but I was going under the notion that he would represent me as an attorney. At that time, small county D.A.s could have a private practice. I wanted to be careful, because I didn't want to look like I was bribing a public officer. So I didn't say anything that indicated that I wanted anything illegal. I was very careful.

We had a nice conversation, smoked cigars, had dinner. Giomi was a habitual cocaine user, and now he's trying to get me on a narcotics trap. That's the last thing they want to try, because I'm the worst narcotic-hater in the world. Every time he mentioned it to me, I'd say, "No, no, don't do that! That's bad for you. If you have anything to do with narcotics I don't want to have nothing to do with you."

Even today people still think that I deal with narcotics because I'm in this business. If they only knew that I'm exactly the opposite! Look at my record! I changed so many girls away from the habit! Some I could, some I couldn't. The ones I could, I changed.

I think they finally know it now. Most of them know it's a lost cause to connect me with narcotics. But at that time, ten, twelve years ago, they still thought that I was the biggest narcotics trafficker in the area. It's just the way they think.

Let me tell you why. They get legal prostitution mixed up with illegal prostitution. Illegal prostitution works hand and glove with narcotics. I will be the first one to admit that the majority of the girls who ply their trade illegally are involved with narcotics. Not all, but the majority. They sell it to each other and give it to each other.

But not here at Mustang! They don't realize how strict we are here to stop it. This is one of the reasons why they should have these places in every city. Because it stops them from using narcotics. Here we can control it.

So many times I've had to say, "Hey, you're barking the wrong tree. This is not the guy. If you deal with narcotics, and you touch any of my family, I will personally kill you."

There's nothing to expose.

I made it very specific that I don't want him to do anything illegal. We said goodbye and on the way to the elevator I took a thousand dollars and put it in his pocket. Ten $100 bills. I said something like, "Here's a start," or "Here's a little retainer," something like that. To me it was like a fee.

He says, "Okay, I'll see what I can do for you, Joe."

We have another meeting at his house in Yerington. He had the place all wired up. This time I am all wired up too.

I said, "John, before we start in anything, let's get one thing straight."

This is all on tape. The state got tape and I was taping too.

I said, "John, I've got to make one thing clear to you. The money that I gave you last time, that's a fee to represent me as a private attorney. In fact, I want you to send me a receipt for it. I want you to have your secretary to send me a receipt, so I can deduct it from my income tax."

How many guys do you know want a receipt for a bribe?

I said, "I'm going to make it very clear, I'm only here for one reason. You have corruption in your county. There's people getting paid off. I'd like to get that eliminated. And I want you to help me get my license back."

We talk and talk, but no decisions. "Okay, I'll see what I can do."

They could not get me for any bribe, because I never asked him to do anything illegal.

Now we have a third meeting at the Hyatt Hotel, Lake Tahoe. Same thing. I don't know why I went there. A prudent man wouldn't go, but I was so anxious to get even with this Kitty, to get what I had coming back to me, that I was willing to take a risk.

I said to myself, "What's the difference? He's either going to take my case or not, and I'm not asking him to do anything illegal."

On that third meeting I must have told him ten times, "John, whatever we're doing, I don't want you to do nothing illegal." And I asked him for a receipt. I said, "Did you send my receipt for the money I gave you last time?"

I gave him a cigar, and I gave him a cigar cutter. That's in the charges, that I bribed him with a cigar and a cigar cutter. I took him gambling, and as I was winning I gave him a few chips. I said, "Here, you play too. Maybe you're lucky." They put that down too, that I bribed him with chips. He tried to trap me and trap me and trap me.

Just giving someone money alone is not a crime. You've got to ask them to do something illegal for it. And I never asked an illegal favor, because I kept saying continuously, "I don't want you to do anything illegal."

But, just the fact that I wanted to get even with Kitty and open back up again kept me coming back. Otherwise I'd have dropped him like a hot potato. We finally had a fourth meeting, at a restaurant in Park Lane Mall. We sit back, we have dinner. Finally he says to me, "But Joe, I don't know what to do."

Finally I told him what he could do.

I said, "One way to get these guys to do the right thing, is to close them all as a nuisance." My suggestion was close them all. Either they all stay open or they all stay closed. In other words, I gave him a few pointers what a D.A. usually does. That was it.

As soon as I said that, he must have got a click from somebody. They said, "That's enough. We don't need any more." The meeting ended real abruptly.

A few days later he says, "Well, let's meet tomorrow morning at the Peppermill Lounge."

He said, "I think I got this solved for you," he says. "Let's meet at the Peppermill."

That same morning I was supposed to leave for Brazil. I used Diane Tyre's car, an old jalopy. I still had my tape recorder taped on. Just as I start walking into the Peppermill, about ten deputy sheriffs pounce on me with warrants for my arrest. Bribery of a public officer.

The night before they had gone to the Grand Jury. You know Grand Juries, you tell them "Piss," they piss.

I went in, I got bailed out. They found my recorder taped to my ankle when they frisked me going in, and they confiscated it.

Because they found the recorder, Cal Dunlap, the Washoe County D.A., gets a warrant to search my house for further tapes. They found tapes, but they were nothing, songs and shit like that. Nothing to do with nothing. After it was in the paper about the tapes, Stan Brown gets a call from Harry Claiborne, "Did they find any tapes of me?"

Stan says, "No, no, Joe doesn't do things like that."

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