Plea deal raises questions about ties between cops and pimps

Clockwise top left Frankie Zappia, Twitter; Anthony Galasi, Twitter; LVMPD Ret. Officer Daniel Giersdorf, Facebook; Aryanne Zappia, Facebook

Note: The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly protecting certain pimps at the expense of their competitors.  Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson says Metro’s failure to investigate one suspected pimp believed to be targeting the children of law enforcement forced her to turn to the FBI.  This is the final installment of a three-part series exposing the shocking family ties that bind police, judges and prostitution. (Part I: AG investigator pursues daughter’s former pimp; Part II: Daughters of police, judges lured into prostitution)

Despite early consensus that convicted criminal and suspected pimp Shane Valentine was involved in the October 2016 murders of 21 year-olds Sydney Land and Nehemian Kauffman, Aryanne Zappia says she knows who killed the two, and while she won’t divulge who, Aryanne says there’s evidence it wasn’t Valentine.  

Aryanne now says cell phone “pings” that place Valentine’s phone near the apartment at the time of the murder don’t prove Valentine was present.  Aryanne contends Valentine left his phone with a friend who was near the scene of the murders and who later drove the phone to a waiting Valentine in Barstow, California, just hours after Kaufmann and Land had been killed.

In an exclusive interview with the Current, Aryanne admits she told police that her sister, Frankie Zappia, likely let the killer(s) in to Kauffman’s apartment.   Frankie Zappia denies she was present and says she had no part in the crime.

Frankie Zappia is identified in court documents as a prostitute working for alleged pimp Dominique Thompson. Aryanne, a former prostitute and her sister Frankie are the step-daughters of retired LVMPD officer Dano Giersdorf.  A Metro spokesman identified Frankie Zappia and Thompson as suspects in the double murders. No arrests have been made.

“…with the grace of God … I was being solicited by four undercover cops.”

Aryanne Zappia says it was her sister Frankie who introduced her to Anthony Galasi , the man who would first gain her trust then become her pimp.

Aryanne was eager to testify against Galasi, the man she knew as rapper Frost the Legend.  

Galasi had allegedly beaten Aryanne, was suspected of shooting and killing another woman, and had forced Aryanne onto the Las Vegas Strip after she thought she’d escaped the hellish underworld of prostitution in San Francisco.

“I walked into the Aria and with the grace of God, minutes later I was being solicited by four undercover cops.”

She was arrested and taken to a room where Metro detectives were waiting. One, according to sources, was Vice Detective Greg Flores, a longtime friend of Zappia’s stepfather, Giersdorf.

Zappia says the detectives took a statement from her, questioned her all night and had her transported downtown in a patrol car, not the paddy wagon used to haul the others arrested that night.   

Ironically, Zappia says the arrest afforded her the freedom she’d longed for while under Galasi’s control.

Now, looking back, Zappia wonders if it was divine intervention or dirty cops that landed her back in the clutches of her pimp and on the Las Vegas Strip that night.

“He beat me and told this was our deal”                                                                               

Two months.  That’s how long it had taken Zappia to wise up and escape the prostitution scene in San Francisco and Galasi, the caring boyfriend who evolved into her pimp.  

Zappia says no one knew she’d returned to Las Vegas when she went to Metropolitan Police homicide detectives in December of 2016 to tell them what she knew of the murders of her longtime friend Land and Land’s boyfriend Nehemiah Kauffman.

It was a tormenting moment for Zappia, who says she knew she had to do the right thing though it meant implicating her sister.

Within days of giving her address to Metro Police, Aryanne Zappia, who was in hiding, was hunted down by Galasi, her former pimp.  

“He beat me and told me this was our deal.  He told me I could earn $5000 for him or he’d make me watch as he killed my family and then killed me,” Aryanne Zappia recounts.   

Given the options, Zappia chose to ply her former trade at the Aria because, she told Galasi, it seemed to be a destination for wealthy people.  

“I’d never been there.  I walked in and had the worst feeling.  I wish I could describe it. I walked passed a group of four men who watched me walk to the bathroom.  I decided I’d go talk to them. Before I could approach them, they approached me. I started to walk away and one pulled out his badge.”   

“I don’t think Metro wanted to find him”                                                                    

It took four months after Zappia’s arrest for Metro to issue a warrant for Galasi.  According to Zappia they were in no hurry to find her pimp.

“I told them he turned himself in and was in jail in L.A. but they did nothing,” she recounts. “He got released and returned to San Francisco. I don’t think Metro wanted to find him.”

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson says the FBI intervened and arranged for Galasi’s arrest by San Francisco police.    

Metro refuses to say why it took another law enforcement agency to find and arrest Galasi.  

The opportunity to put Galasi away for good on first degree kidnapping and human trafficking charges was the answer to Zappia’s prayers.  She says she was tired of running and wanted a stable life for her young child.

On Sunday night, November 26, 2017, Zappia received a text from Detective Flores, warning her Galasi’s preliminary hearing was the next morning and if she wasn’t there the alleged pimp would walk.  

“I never received a subpoena, but Flores had flagged my case to have no one contact me but him,” she says.   

Metro declined to say why, of all detectives, family friend Flores was assigned to Aryanne’s case.

Despite the short notice, Zappia made it to court where she took the stand against her former pimp.  

“The prosecutors told me I was their star witness. They said no one ever takes the stand.  I told them I would not back down. I wanted to testify against him. I told them not to make any deals.”    

On December 29, 2017, the District Attorney’s office filed a motion to have Galasi punished as a habitual criminal at sentencing.

In early 2018, shortly before the scheduled trial, Zappia says Flores contacted her about a “big problem.” He claimed Metro had evidence that Zappia was spotted soliciting prostitution in San Francisco.  

“I told him ‘Really, Greg? That’s amazing since I’ve clocked in to my job in Las Vegas every day with my fingerprint.’ I told him to show me the evidence.  He never did,” she says.

Neither Metro nor the DA will say what evidence allegedly compromised Zappia’s testimony.

In February, Aryanne Zappia learned from Flores that Galasi had taken a deal offered by the District Attorney and was released on time served – 120 days – despite a felony warrant from California for False Imprisonment.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson maintains, as he has to other media outlets, that Aryanne Zappia ultimately refused to testify, a contention Zappia denies. 

Court house sources suggest the personal relationship between Zappia’s family and Detective Flores may have compromised the case at trial.  

Aryanne Zappia says she’s heard the stories of an FBI investigation of Metro’s vice unit and rumors of cops protecting pimps in exchange for cash and favors.  

“I believe I may have been set up that night and I have suspicions about whether Galasi is being protected. I’m a cop’s kid, so it doesn’t really register with me that cops could be dirty and on the take. ”  

 

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.

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