Sebastian Rucci became known in the Mahoning Valley for Go Go Girls Cabaret, his topless dance club that became a lightning rod for bad publicity.
He said the cabaret has been shut for years, closing in September 2011, and he bought the entire complex the same year.
Rucci, the owner of Hotel California, has only one open case in the courts after having multiple charges over recent years related to the shuttered cabaret. He and other principals in the club were charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, perjury and two counts each of promoting prostitution.
Those cases were dismissed or won on appeal by Rucci.
He has an extensive track record of appealing rulings while defending himself against charges from the Go Go club.
Rucci not only denied the charges but tenaciously fought them in court.
The remaining case is an appeal of a jury verdict in Mahoning County Area Court in Austintown in which a jury found Rucci “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of illegal sales” of liquor on March 4.
He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay a $500 fine March 31. Rucci also was found guilty of keeping a place where beer or liquor are sold illegally and ordered to pay an additional $320 in fines.
While he was set to begin his sentence April 15, he filed for a new trial, which was denied. He then appealed the court’s ruling.
“If I do have to serve my 30 days; it will be my first vacation in a long time,” he mused.
He also said, “I will not litigate any further.” He added, “I’m at a phase in my life ... when I’m not going to focus on that. I’m not going to focus on the litigation. I think there’s been a lot of money spent needlessly on fighting these battles, which I believe were politically motivated.”
“We don’t prosecute political crimes; we prosecute crimes,” said Ken Cardinal, a Mahoning County assistant prosecutor.
Rucci is quick to dispel his Go Go past, admitting, “I should not have been in it.”
“The club was a bad idea, a bad business plan,” he said. “But you know, I’m a battler and I fought [to keep it open]. That was a mistake on my part. I’ve put that all behind me.”
Rucci said he has put $4 million into Hotel California, including $1.2 million to purchase the hotel in 2012, and the rest on upgrading it. He said he reached out to people who invested in the venture and has 19 people on his payroll.
He said the hotel awaits approval of a liquor license.
Rucci had applied for a license, but he said he “withdrew mine because I’m too much of a lightning rod here.” Instead, it is under the name of a business partner, his former lawyer James Vitullo.
“I’m not going to fight that fight. If I can spend $4 million in this town and bring some good, and some people want to attack it, I get the message loud and clear. I will move on. Get another Sebastian Rucci to spend $4 million in your town,” he said.
Trustee Lisa Oles said, “I don’t believe he’s making it into something new. I believe it is the Go Go Cabaret operating under a new name ... Palm trees are not going to disguise the activities we anticipate that will take place there.”
Read more about this controversial businessman and his battles with local officials in Sunday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.