December 4, 2022 — The family of former larger-than-life Las Vegas businessman James (Buffalo Jim) Barrier suspect his drug-overdose death 15 years ago could have been a Chicago mob hit.
Buffalo Jim Barrier was found dead of what Las Vegas Police ruled a cocaine-induced heart attack inside a room at a Motel 6 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.
Rizzolo has never been charged with any acts of mob violence. Police in Nevada stand by their previous determination that Buffalo Jim’s death didn’t involve foul play. Per the FBI, Rizzolo maintains ties to high-ranking members of the mafia in Chicago and the old murderous Tony (The Ant) Spilotro crew in Vegas.
The 55-year old Barrier, known for his wild look, over-the-top personality in the Vegas business community and a pro-wrestling promotion he ran on local cable access television, had cooperated with the FBI in building a case against Rizzolo, a man federal prosecutors had on their radar for years before it finally nailed him for tax fraud. Barrier and Rizzolo were engaged in a bitter feud throughout the late 1990s and 2000s over a property dispute on Industrial Road related to Barrier’s auto-repair shop which was attached and paid rent to Rizzolo’s famous Crazy Horse Too strip club, known as a hangout for organized-crime types visiting from Chicago, who the feds thought had silent ownership in the place.
Rizzolo wanted to evict Barrier to expand the strip club but was blocked by the courts when Barrier filed a lawsuit asserting renter’s rights. According to Barrier’s family, Barrier and his business became the victims of an intimidation and harassment campaign launched by Rizzolo and his pals.
With Barrier’s help, the feds got Rizzolo to cop a guilty plea to tax evasion in 2007. He was convicted in another tax case in 2017 and did two more years in the can. After his first conviction, Rizzolo was forced to sell his ownership interest the Crazy Horse Too. The club has since shuttered.
Today, Rizzolo, 63, lives in retirement in Las Vegas. Tony Spilotro, the city’s mafia boss in the 1970s and 1980s, was slain in 1986 and immortalized in the film Casino a decade later. Rizzolo admittedly is best friends with one-time Spilotro confidant and crew member Joey Cusumano.
Barrier’s two adult daughters, Jennifer and Jerica and their attorney Gus Flangas did interviews with the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week on their suspicion that Buffalo Jim’s death was possibly a hit. The new Unsolved Mysteries reboot on Netflix features an episode on Barrier’s questionable Motel 6 overdose.
This article was originally posted here