Buffalo Jim’s Last Ballad in Las Vegas may have been a Murder Arranged by the Chicago Outfit-‘Crazy Horses Run Wild’
The family of the late James (Buffalo Jim) Barrier, a once-prominent Las Vegas businessman, believes that his death from a heroin overdose 15 years ago may have resulted from a mob hit in Chicago.
Buffalo On April 6, 2008, less than 48 hours after convicted felon and longtime reputed Chicago mob associate Rick Rizzolo was let off home confinement at the end of a year-long prison sentence for unpaid taxes, Jim Barrier was found dead in a Motel 6 room of what Las Vegas Police ruled a cocaine-induced heart attack.
There have been no mob violence charges brought against Rizzolo. The Nevada police department is sticking by its original ruling that Buffalo Jim’s death was accidental. The FBI claims that Rizzolo has deep connections to the Chicago mob’s upper echelons and the surviving members of the Vegas gang led by the notorious hitman Tony (The Ant) Spilotro.
Barrier, 55, helped the FBI build a case against Rizzolo, a man federal prosecutors had been keeping tabs on for years before they finally nailed him for tax fraud due to his rugged appearance and flamboyant personality in the Vegas business community and a pro-wrestling promotion he ran that aired on regional cable-access television.
The Most Colorful Character
In 2005, Buffalo Jim was honored by a Las Vegas newspaper as the city’s Most Colorful Character. In addition to being a garage, he hosted WWE and WCW stars for appearances, autograph signings, and trading of pro wrestling memorabilia. He wrote a nationally syndicated column for auto-enthusiast magazines.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Barrier and Rizzolo fought bitterly over a property issue on Industrial Road involving Barrier’s auto-repair company, Allstate Auto & Marine, which was adjacent to Rizzolo’s infamous Crazy Horse Too strip club.
Buffalo Jim’s landlord was a man named Rizzolo. In 1977, Buffalo Jim first opened the doors to his garage. Tensions between Rizzolo and Barrier, growing since Rizzolo took over the strip club in the mid-1980s, erupted at the turn of the millennium.
Famous people frequented Rizzolo’s Crazy Horse Too, a popular hangout for mobsters from Chicago and the rest of the Midwest. The FBI had reason to believe that Rizzolo was merely a puppet of the Chicago mafia, who they thought to be the actual owners of the club.
Joey (The Clown) Lombardo, a former Chicago mafia consigliere, sent several family members to Las Vegas to work at the club while he was in charge of the Westside and kept eyes on Outfit affairs in the Las Vegas casino and hotel industry on behalf of his superiors.
When Rizzolo attempted to evict Barrier in 1997 so that he could expand the strip club, Barrier sued, claiming that she was a lawful tenant and that Rizzolo had violated her rights. The Barrier family claims that when Barrier refused to leave the land, Rizzolo and his friends began an intimidation and harassment campaign against him and his business.
Another death that boosted the investigation
The family of Buffalo Jim alleges that he and his customers were subjected to a campaign of intimidation and harassment that included death threats. Kirk Henry, a client at Crazy Horse Too, was found dead on the pavement outside the establishment in September 2001 with a snapped neck after getting into an altercation with bouncers over a disputed bar tab.
The death of Henry prompted a joint investigation of Rizzolo and the club by the FBI, the DEA, and the Internal Revenue Service. In 2003, Crazy Horse Too was the target of a federal raid. In 2007, the federal government was aided by Barrier in getting Rizzolo to plead guilty to tax evasion. In 2017, he was again found guilty of tax evasion, earning him another two years behind bars.
Rizzolo lost his ownership stake in Crazy Horse Too after his first conviction. As of right now, the nightclub is closed. Rizzolo is 63 years old and is currently enjoying retirement in Las Vegas.
Chicago’s power-hungry mob boss in the 1970s and 1980s, Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, was gunned down in a home basement for disobedience in June 1986 and later made into a movie called Casino. Rizzolo has come clean about his close friendship with former Spilotro insider and crew member Joey Cusumano.
This Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal spoke with Jennifer and Jerica Barrier, their father, and their attorney Gus Flanges about their belief that Buffalo Jim’s death may have resulted from a hit
. The shady overdose at Barrier’s Motel 6 is the subject of an episode of the new Unsolved Mysteries series on Netflix. Neither the LVRJ nor Netflix was able to get a statement from Rizzolo about his problems with Buffalo Jim or the circumstances of his death.