Nevada bagnio operator Joe Conforte was arrested Friday night on an extortion charge brought by District Attorney William Raggio, who said Conforte threatened him with public accusations of statutory rape and furnishing liquor to a minor.
Conforte is being held in Washoe County jail in lieu of $50,000 bail on the charge of extortion by threat.
Raggio backed his arrest of Conforte Saturday morning with a strongly worded statement declaring he would not be intimidated and that he intended a vigorous prosecution of the self-styled Nevada rancher.
Raggio said Conforte and he met privately in Reno and that the bagnio operator demanded the district attorney drop the charge of vagrancy now pending in justice court here and publicly apologize for causing him any trouble.
The district attorney called Conforte’s threats and offer “a frame up” and said he would fight “to insure that no such tactics can ever again be used in this county to influence the actions of public officials or judiciary.”
According to Raggio, Conforte set him up with a so-called “divorce client,” a young lady who claimed to be 22 years old and in Reno for the cure. The client then arranged a second meeting in a local cocktail lounge. At that time a third person was present as the young woman suggested moving the cocktail hour to her hotel room.
Both in the cocktail lounge and in the hotel room, Raggio says, the woman made suggestive statements.
He said he realized her intentions when she asked the third person to leave the hotel room so Raggio also left.
Raggio said the woman was later seen checking out of the hotel with Conforte.
‘IT IS MY DUTY’
“I will not be intimidated,” the district attorney said Saturday morning, “I feel that it is my duty … to see to it that scum and filth do not influence the action of public officers…”
Raggio said Conforte imposed one more condition than the dropping of charges and apology: he wanted a charge against Dr. William J. Bryan of furnishing liquor to a minor, now pending in the state Supreme Court, dropped. Conforte explained that Dr. Bryan was a friend of his and that he had an interest in the case.
Raggio said Conforte warned him that he should know better than to interfere with his operations because of (Conforte’s) friends and his connections with law enforcement officials.
Conforte is scheduled to appear in justice court here Monday at 3 p.m. to answer the extortion charge.
The arrest was made, Raggio explained, by setting up a second meeting on neutral ground, in Virginia City. Instead of Raggio showing, his chief criminal investigator, Roger Corbett, and Washoe County Sheriff’s deputies George Ringener and Jack Overton went to the Comstock city.
Conforte never appeared. The three Washoe County officials then went to a Conforte bagnio located on Highway 50 near its intersection with the Virginia City highway.
They found Conforte there and brought him back to the Washoe County jail.
When bail was set at $50,000, Conforte was not immediately able to raise that amount.