Infamous Nevada Brothel Closes
MUSTANG, Nev. (AP) _ After more than two decades of trying to padlock the infamous Mustang Ranch, the government took over the brothel Monday in an almost anticlimactic surrender of keys to federal agents.
Amid a crush of media and curious onlookers, the employees _ custodians, cashiers and prostitutes _ left the pink stucco ranch throughout the day with boxes and suitcases. Some of the working girls drove off in Cadillacs and BMWs.
After working as a prostitute at the Mustang for five months, a woman who only identified herself as Dawn said she was considering a job offer at the Kit Kat Ranch east of Carson City.
``I don’t see why it closed. It’s not necessary. It’s ridiculous,″ she said, holding a vase of roses and carnations.
The property _ 104 rooms on a 440-acre ranch just east of Reno _ was handed over at 5 p.m., but the corporation that owns the brothel ceased business at 10:30 a.m. after the last bank deposit, said U.S. Customs Agent Ron Meseberg.
He wouldn’t say how much business the brothel did over the weekend, but added, ``They did quite well in the last week.″
Prostitution is legal in 12 of Nevada’s 17 counties, including Storey County where the Mustang Ranch opened 32 years ago.
But the government has long contended that the brothel’s original owner paid off local officials and skirted taxes. Guilty verdicts against the brothel’s parent companies and manager in a federal fraud and racketeering trial last month ended the government’s crusade to shut it down.
James Collie, chief Internal Revenue Service investigator for the southwestern United States, said the government intended to shut the Mustang Ranch down and leave it shut down until a court determines if there are valid claims against the property.
``There is no intention of the government to operate it as a brothel,″ he said.
The court-ordered closure would be the second time the government has taken over the Mustang Ranch.
The government first shut it down in 1990 after owner Joe Conforte declared bankruptcy, then auctioned the ranch off to recover some of the $13 million in back taxes the IRS said Conforte owed.
Victory Perry, the only bidder, bought it for $1.49 million on behalf of Mustang Properties Inc., and the bordello reopened in 1992.
Conforte was on the lam from tax authorities at the time.
The government contends that Mustang Properties was simply a paper company set up by Conforte to continue profiting from the Mustang Ranch. Perry’s brother, Conforte lawyer Peter Perry, was a key witness in the trial that resulted in Monday’s closure.
At the trial, prosecutors alleged that the ranch’s parent companies, A.G.E. Corp. and A.G.E. Enterprises, which took over the ranch from Mustang Properties, and former Storey County Commissioner and Mustang manager Shirley Colletti conspired to conceal the fact that Conforte continued to own the $5 million-a-year brothel illegally. Both companies and Colletti were convicted of fraud and racketeering.
Testimony at the trial alleged that Conforte remained on retainer with the Mustang management as a $10,000-a-month consultant and that 10 times that amount was siphoned from the brothel to South America, where Conforte is believed to be living.