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Crime figure Cecola Nominated to Black Book

12 September 2000

by David Strow

LAS VEGAS, Nevada—Sept. 12, 2000 --Two years ago Sam Cecola said he'd never again set foot in his well-known Las Vegas topless dancing strip club.

Now Nevada gaming authorities are trying to extend Cecola's ban to every casino in the state.

Cecola (pronounced suh-cola), founder of Club Paradise, convicted felon and rumored organized crime figure, has been proposed for inclusion in Nevada's list of excluded persons, better known as the Black Book. The proposal will be considered by the state Control Board Thursday.

The proposal to be presented to the board cites Cecola's 1997 conviction on federal tax violations and his "notorious and unsavory reputation." Inclusion in the book bans a person from entering any casino in Nevada and threatens gaming licensees with heavy fines if they permit an excluded person on property.

James Taylor, special agent in the Control Board's enforcement division, said the proposal revolves around two primary concerns -- the fact that Cecola has established lines of credit at "numerous local hotel-casinos," and Cecola's inclusion in a report on organized crime associates published by the Chicago Crime Commission in 1997.

In September 1997 Cecola was convicted on six felony counts in Chicago federal court for skimming money from two adult bookstores in Illinois and Wisconsin. In its indictment of Cecola, the government alleged Cecola and his associates skimmed in excess of $2.5 million from the bookstores over an 11-year period.

Cecola was convicted on one court of defrauding the Internal Revenue Service and five counts of filing false income tax returns, and was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

The conviction jeopardized the liquor license of the upscale Club Paradise. But seven months later, in an agreement with Clark County officials and the Las Vegas Metro Police, Cecola agreed to transfer his majority ownership in the club to his wife, Geralyn.

In the agreement, Cecola agreed to never set foot in the club or to be involved in any way in its business operations. Moreover, Cecola agreed to never again apply for a county gaming or liquor license.

Despite this ban, Metro officials presented telephone records that showed Cecola had conversations from prison with his wife about the club's operations. Metro contended that the records showed Cecola was still active in the club's operations, but the Clark County Commission voted in February 1999 to award Geralyn Cecola a license over Metro's objections.

Cecola was released from prison in May and lives in Barrington, Ill.

If the board votes to nominate Cecola, the board would have 30 days to serve him with the nomination. Cecola would then have the right to contest the nomination in a hearing before the Nevada Gaming Commission. If the nomination was accepted by a vote of the commission, Cecola's name would then be added to the list.

If approved by the commission, Cecola would be the 36th name added to the Black Book.

One of Cecola's lawyers had no immediate comment Monday on his nomination to the Black Book.

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