Conforte says he and former manager Colletti victims of government vendetta

Fugitive brothel operator Joe Conforte took advantage of his first interview in several years to accuse federal agents of a vendetta against him and anyone associated with his old Mustang Ranch.

Conforte was interviewed from what appeared to be his condominium along Ipanema Beach in Brazil for the Monday night show "City Confidential" on the A&E cable network.

In an hour-long, factually flawed program about the history of the brothel operator and Virginia City, the show's producers placed Mustang Ranch Brothel just outside Virginia City and relocated Lyon County's Moonlight Bunny Ranch to Storey County.

The show recounted Conforte's arrival in the 1950s to open the Triangle Ranch at the intersection of Washoe, Storey and Lyon counties east of Reno and his rise to political power in Storey County.

The show also pointed out that Storey County was left with a huge hole in the local budget after the brothel was shut down. It contributed about $250,000 a year to the county coffers through licenses and fees while operating.

The show made repeated references to unnamed politicians accepting bribes from Conforte, statements backed by former prostitute and some-times political candidate Jessi Winchester, who labeled the state corrupt.

"Nevada is a corrupt state," she said. "Founded on gambling and a lot of the vices."

Conforte said the government was out to get him at practically any cost. What they got was his former lawyer Peter Perry, who turned state's evidence and testified against Conforte in last year's federal court trial. Conforte dubbed him "the biggest con artist in the world." And he said his friends and associates, including former Mustang manager and Storey County Commissioner Shirley Colletti, were "railroaded."

Colletti was convicted last July of racketeering and wire fraud in a case that started as an Internal Revenue Service indictment accusing Conforte of skimming millions from the brothel and shipping it to a Swiss bank account.

"She was only indicted because she would not lie against Joe Conforte," said the former Mustang operator.

"They all got railroaded," he said. "I would do her sentence if it was just her and me. If they (the federal agents) would make a deal that whatever sentence she got I would do, I would do her sentence."

Federal officials seized the brothel and, after Colletti and the AGE Corporation which owned it were convicted in the trial, shut down the brothel 15 miles east of Reno.

Conforte said Colletti only did what Perry told her to, "which was send money to the shareholders." Federal agents say the shareholder who got the money from a Swiss bank account was actually Conforte, who they maintain reclaimed control after IRS auctioned off the brothel to pay tax debts 10 years ago.

"The only thing he doesn't have is the two horns," said Conforte of Perry. "He is the biggest con artist in the world. Any man who cons me, which he did, is the biggest con artist in the world."


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