License for Wild Horse Canyon Ranch and Spa manager approved

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VIRGINIA CITY -- Wild Horse Canyon Ranch and Spa, the newest brothel in northern Storey County, has a new manager.

After a six-month investigation headed by Storey County Sheriff Pat Whitten, commissioners unanimously approved the licensure of Susan Austin.

She will take the reins from owner/developer Lance Gilman, who managed the brothel until she was approved.

"Throughout the process, she has been honest and trustworthy and never made any misrepresentations," Whitten said. "She has no felony conviction record, is not insolvent and is very capable of managing the business. Like most of us, she probably isn't perfect, but in my estimation she will make a very good brothel manager."

Questions arose during the investigation concerning a bankruptcy proceeding, allegedly involving her ex-husband's business in 1994.

"Most described her as trustworthy, hard-working and honest and none knew of any drug- or alcohol-related issues," Whitten said. "My overall impression is that she is a sincere, honest and caring individual who has had diverse life experiences, ranging from growing up as a military 'brat' to being the victim of a violent strong-arm robbery, to turning to legal prostitution to support her family."

The daughter of a military officer, Austin spent most of her life in Europe. She worked as a jewelry broker until she was assaulted and robbed of her jewels in Torrance, Calif. No longer insurable in that industry, she moved to Reno and became a working girl in 1999 at both the Moonlite Bunnyranch and the Sagebrush Ranch.

"Life's circumstances brought me here and I'm not ashamed of my choice," she said. "I became a working girl and, as manager, I understand what the girls are going through, where they are coming from and their day-to-day struggles. These women put aside their personal feelings and offer companionship to those who, for any number of reasons, would not otherwise get it."

The main building for the brothel is still under construction and Austin converted her home into a smaller brothel with eight working rooms until the 50-room, multi-million-dollar complex is finished in October or November.

This license signals the end of a protracted process, the first since Storey County's new brothel ordinance was approved in the fall of 2000.

The brothel also faced a string of legal challenges from neighboring businesses, including DP Properties, Kal Kan Foods Inc. and Roybridge Investments Limited, all claiming that the presence of a brothel will hurt their business image, standing and perception in the business community.

All allegations to date have been denied in the courts, but attorneys for DP Properties recently complained that fencing requirements for the brothel have not been met, according to Whitten.

Wild Horse Canyon Ranch and Spa is just east of the infamous Mustang Ranch brothel, padlocked since the1999 guilty verdicts against the brothel's parent companies and manager in a federal fraud and racketeering trial.


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