Tom Petters' taped accusations about Robert and Jon Sabes, played in court Tuesday, are not the Sabes family's first brush with controversy. Robert W. Sabes, 69, lives in Las Vegas now. But his many years in gaming, restaurants and the investment business in the Twin Cities earned him considerable wealth and standing as a philanthropist -- as well as the occasional headline.
The Sabes Family Foundation is known for charitable contributions, particularly to Jewish causes. Robert Sabes (pronounced SAY-biz) is also known for running the Minneapolis strip club Schieks Palace Royale (formerly Solid Gold). Sabes sold the nightclub in 2007 for a reported $10 million.
Back in 1994, a former business associate of Sabes, strip club magnate Michael J. Peter, was indicted in Florida on charges of racketeering and selling hidden interests in one of his many strip clubs, called Thee Dollhouse III, to reputed members of the Gambino crime family. Peter had managed Solid Gold in Minneapolis, which was part of a national chain, for Sabes. Peter eventually pleaded guilty to a count of mail fraud.
Mob talk dogged Sabes in the gaming industry, too. According to a 1993 U.S. News and World Report story headlined "Gaming with the Mob?", Sabes testified before a gaming commission that he had done business with a partner of Michael Peter named James Williams. Williams was convicted in the late 1980s of tax evasion connected to money he earned from running bingo halls for Indian tribes. Police linked Williams to another New York crime family.
In a 1993 cover story in Corporate Report, "Guilt by Association," Sabes denied mob links and said he had only arm's-length connections to people who got in trouble. The rumors caused Sabes to resign as CEO of Gaming Corporation of America, a company developing gaming operations with Indian tribes.
Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683