Ex-lounge singer and strip club operator Gil Conte has been so close to his mentor, convicted (1971) racketeer Frank Colacurcio Sr. that he even once appeared in a picture in the paper as Frank--after fooling a photographer. But he and Colacurcio now have a new bond: both senior citizens have been barred from entering or operating their beloved strip clubs--Colacurcio, 92, had been barred after an earlier federal conviction, and Conte, 76, was barred as part of a federal sentence handed down Tuesday.
Conte was also handed a year's probation and had to give up financial interest in one of the Colacurcio strip clubs, Sugar's on Aurora in Shoreline. The plea bargain came as part of the new racketeering case against Colacurcio, his son and partners, accused of conspiring to promote prostitution and money laundering at Rick's nude club in Lake City and other locations. Trial is slated for next January.
Conte copped a plea and prosecutors responded gently. Frank and the others made millions off the strip biz, say the feds; Conte not so much: He's now broke and living on unemployment.
"Mr. Conte was situated differently than the other individual defendants charged in this matter," the feds say in court papers. "Specifically, Mr. Conte was paid only a modest salary for his work at the Talents West strip clubs, and thus he did not profit from the criminal enterprise to the same extent as the other defendants. Moreover, as compared to the other defendants, Mr. Conte had less decision-making authority within the businesses."
Conte is depicted in charging papers as something of a money messenger, riding about in his black Lincoln Town Car from club to club, picking up credit slips and cash, and going either to the bank or a Lake City apartment that, the feds claim, Colacurcio had to rent to keep all the money the clubs were making. Conte's attorney Richard Hansen says his client played a "minor role" for Colacurcio, and in a letter to the court, Conte's son Vincent says "My dad is a big-hearted honest person, and I believe that is why Frank trusted him to collect the money, knowing he wouldn't steal."
Though Conte is not to have contact with any of the clubs, owners or employees, he was granted specific permission to continue to have "non-case related contact" with his old friend Frank, as well as Colacurcio's son Frankie and Frankie's wife Rainey. There is no indication he will testify against his friends at next year's trial (barring a long-rumored settlement of the case).
In addition to the unemployment, Conte has a small musician's union pension and Social Security to help out, but he told the court he was too broke to pay a fine--and none was assessed.
"Since my mother died eight years ago," wrote son Vincent, "he has been the strength that holds our family together." Conte and his late wife were divorced 30 years ago but "my father frequently visits my mom's grave and leaves flowers," said the son.