Joe Conforte was born in 1926 in Sicily. He emigrated with his family to the United States in 1937 and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
By the 1950s, Conforte was a cab driver in the San Francisco area. He drove a cab in Oakland, California taking G.I.'s from the Oakland Army Base and sailors from Alameda Naval Air Station and the Oakland Navy Supply Base during World War II. Conforte would take the military men to brothels on the border of Alameda County and Contra Costa County. He moved to Nevada in 1955 and opened the Triangle River Ranch brothel in Wadsworth, an illegal brothel at the junction of Washoe, Storey and Lyon counties. In 1959, Conforte served 22 months in jail after attempting to extort the Washoe County district attorney. He served 2 1/2 years in prison for income tax evasion in 1963.
Joe Conforte and his wife Sally Burgess Conforte took over the Mustang Bridge Ranch in Storey County in 1967. (The name of the brothel was later changed to Mustang Ranch.) In 1971, Storey County made prostitution legal and licensed Conforte as a brothel owner.
In April 1977 Joe and Sally Conforte were arrested on 10 counts of income tax evasion. She was fined $10,000 and given a suspended sentence; he faced a minimum five years in prison and $10,000 fine. Conforte appealed his conviction but fled the country in 1980 when he lost the appeal. He later returned and served a reduced sentence.
Conforte fled to Brazil in 1991 ahead of a federal grand jury handing up numerous indictments in 1995 and 1998. The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that the extradition treaty between Brazil and the United States did not cover bankruptcy fraud.
I knew Joe, a little, and often dealt craps to him at the old Primm in Reno.
He is a part of Nevada history, a part not often mentioned, but NEVERTHELESS, a part of its rich history.