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Mustang Ranch owner victorious in county race

| Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 6:26 p.m.

RENO — Lance Gilman is a thriving businessman with dozens of employees. That those workers include a good many prostitutes didn't faze the people of a rural Nevada county who elected him as a Storey County commissioner by a wide margin.

The Mustang Ranch brothel owner is the first such owner to win election to public office in Nevada since prostitution was legalized here in 1971, Nevada historian Guy Rocha said. And he's believed to be the first to do so in the state's 148-year history “He's in rare company,” Rocha said. “Of course, it's going to be rare because the business of selling sex for money is illegal in every jurisdiction in the United States except in rural Nevada.”

About two dozen brothels legally operate in 10 of Nevada's 17 counties. Prostitution is illegal in the counties that include Las Vegas and Reno, the state's population centers.

Gilman, 68, a self-described “dye-in-the-wool Republican who loves American values,” said he encountered few objections to his Mustang Ranch ownership during his campaign in the county of 4,000. He won with 62 percent of the vote on Nov. 6.

His claims that his bordello, along Interstate 80 about 10 miles east of Reno, has contributed more than $5 million to the county's budget during the past decade. It has 44 full-time employees, and 30 to 80 working girls, depending on the season.

Gilman attributes his victory to his entrepreneurial experience. Mustang Ranch is only a small part of his business empire, which includes business parks, a Harley-Davidson dealership and master planned communities in California and Nevada.

Mustang Ranch became the state's first legal brothel — and most infamous — under former owner Joe Conforte. Heavyweight boxer Oscar Bonavena was slain there in 1976.

The cathouse operated until 1999 when the federal government seized it after guilty verdicts against its parent companies and manager in a federal fraud and racketeering trial. Conforte is now a fugitive in Brazil.

Gilman bought the gaudy pink stucco buildings that once housed the bordello in 2003 and moved them a short distance next to his Wild Horse brothel. He assumed ownership of the Mustang Ranch trademark when he bought the buildings from the government.

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