FBI says Patriot Act used in Vegas strip club corruption probe

Associated Press | November 04, 2003

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The FBI used the USA Patriot Act to obtain financial information about key figures in a political corruption probe centered on striptease club owner Michael Galardi, an agent said. 

Investigators used a section of the Patriot Act to get subpoenas for financial documents, said Special Agent Jim Stern, a spokesman for the Las Vegas FBI office. 

"It was used appropriately by the FBI and was clearly within the legal parameters of the statute," Stern said. 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that records were subpoenaed from Galardi, the owner of Jaguars in southern Nevada and Cheetah's in Las Vegas and San Diego; his lobbyist, former Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone; former Commissioner Erin Kenny; County Commission Chairwoman Mary Kincaid-Chauncey; former County Commission Chairman Dario Herrera; and Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald, who lost a re-election bid in June. 

The Patriot Act, passed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was originally touted by the government as a tool to help federal law enforcers combat and prevent terrorism. 

Civil libertarians have criticized the Bush administration for employing the wide-ranging act to also crack down on drug traffickers and child pornographers. 

The measure lets federal investigators seek financial records of people suspected of being terrorists or laundering money. 

Malone's lawyer called it an outrage that the FBI used anti-terrorism measures in an effort to gather information on his client. 

"The Patriot Act ... clearly was not intended for this," Las Vegas lawyer Dominic Gentile said. 

Gary Peck, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said the Patriot Act included provisions "that in no way had anything to do with the threat of terrorism, but could help them in your more garden variety criminal prosecutions." 

Attorney Richard Wright, who represents McDonald, said he was unaware investigators had used Patriot Act powers. 

"It isn't anything that's lawfully known," he said. 

Federal authorities in San Diego say Galardi and Malone paid San Diego city officials to lift a ban on contact between topless dancers and their customers. Malone and three San Diego city councilmen await trial on public corruption charges. 

A federal grand jury in Las Vegas also has been hearing evidence regarding allegations of public corruption in southern Nevada. No indictments have been announced in that case.