It Didn’t Stay Here: 15% of all accusations against Bill Cosby cited Las Vegas

It Didn't Stay Here

Bill Cosby (2015 booking photo courtesy Montgomery County [Pa.] district attorney’s office)

There already were some famous nominees for my list It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster features folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas, disproving the cheeky local marketing slogan, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” President Donald J. Trump is one, thanks to a videotaped 2013 party that involved a whole lot of Russians. Another is Emmanuel Macron, who, before he became president of France, presided over an out-of-budget-control marketing event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. The entire list is displayed nearby.

To these luminaries I now add another–Bill Cosby. Last week, the 80-year-old comedian was convicted in a Norristown, Pa., courtroom of all three felony aggravated indecent assault counts against him. Five women, plus Andrea Constand, whose situation led to that prosecution, described in court a long-standing pattern of using drugs to overcome their lack of consent. More to my point, two of those five recounted attacks in Las Vegas at what was then the Las Vegas Hilton, previously the International Hotel and now the Westgate Las Vegas, where Cosby frequently performed.

By my count from news reports, at least another seven of the 60 or so women who have come forward publicly in the past 15 years to accuse Cosby of crimes said their incidents took place in Las Vegas. That makes Vegas with that anything-goes-but-keep-it-quiet imprimatur the crime venue of 15% of all known allegations against Cosby.

Cosby faces a prison sentence in Pennsylvania of up to 30 years. That certainly meets my New To Las Vegas definition of being in trouble elsewhere.

None of the claims emanating from Las Vegas, which are in the time period 1970 to 1989, has resulted in criminal or civil cases in Nevada against Cosby, who generally has denied all allegations everywhere. That is partly because Nevada’s statute of limitation for criminal prosecution of rape was only four years until 2015, when it was extended to 20 years at the urging of Lisa Lotte-Lublin, who testified at the Cosby trial. I’m also thinking that overall societal support for the national #MeToo movement might be a little thinner here. Continue reading

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Far from Las Vegas, Curse of Lew Wallace resurfaces in New Mexico

Susana Martinez, 137th governor of  New Mexico since Western colonization

Every once in a while, I see something happening outside my bailiwick that I can’t resist commenting upon at length. Such an event occurred today in New Mexico, where I lived for 12 years long before becoming New To Las Vegas. In Santa Fe the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously invalidated 10 vetoes issued by Susana Martinez, the state’s hapless two-term Republican governor. I say hapless because all she had to do was issue the vetoes in a timely fashion and include one-sentence explanations, or “objections” as they are called in Article 4, Section 22 of the 213-page New Mexico Constitution.

This isn’t a very hard task; vetoes that stick happen routinely in state capitals across the country. But Martinez somehow blew it, big time.

However, in her defense her lapse may have something to do with a culture of incompetence of New Mexico. This is not a new thing.

Curse of Lew Wallace

Lew Wallace, 97th governor of New Mexico since Western colonization

Some 137 years ago this very weekend, the state’s most illustrious governor–Lew Wallace, author of the famous novel, Ben-Hur–defined that culture when he memorably wrote, “All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.” In May 1998, after yet another governmental debacle, I explained what Wallace might have been referring to in an article for Crosswinds, then New Mexico’s largest alternative newspaper, entitled “The Curse of Lew Wallace.” Below is the text of what I wrote. (Another version with more photos and an image of the legendary wording in Wallace’s own handwriting can be found by clicking here.) Were I composing from scratch today, I would only update a few names and facts. Continue reading

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Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, may revise John C. Frémont exhibit after my criticisms

John C. Frémont

John C. Frémont

An official of the Nevada State Museum says a traveling exhibit now in Las Vegas about the life of 19th century military adventurer and politician John C. Frémont might be revised to add negative material that I complained had been left out, like his war-criminal slaughter of Latino civilians and Indians in the run-up to the Mexican War.

Eugene M. Hattori, curator of anthropology at the museum, which has facilities in Las Vegas and Carson City, acknowledged there were significant omissions in the chronology presented at the exhibit of Frémont and that he was open to fixing that. Hattori spoke during a back-and-forth interview with me moderated by Joe Schoenmann aired today on “KNPR’s State of Nevada,” a weekday public affairs show on Las Vegas public radio station KNPR.

That interview can be heard by clicking here and in the next window clicking on the word “LISTEN.”

In a New To Las Vegas post and update earlier this month about the exhibit, entitled “Finding Frémont,” I wrote that so much bad stuff about his life had been left out that the exhibit should be renamed “Whitewashing Frémont.” I wrote then:

I saw no mention of his massacre of Indians, no mention of his massacre of Latinos, no mention of his being a tax cheat, no mention of his using inside information to get a lucrative land grant and fiddle with its boundaries, little mention of his poor military skills, little mention of his dreadful political skills, no mention of his role as an absentee lawmaker and office-holder, and no mention of his peddling worthless bonds or conviction and prison sentence for fraud.

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Alleged Pittsburgh-area fraud involved Las Vegas spending

It Didn't Stay Here

The Bellagio and its fountains (via Wikipedia)

George Retos Jr., a 69-year-old businessman and former lawyer who lives in the Pittsburgh, Pa. suburb of East Washington, was a big, big fan of Las Vegas. He especially liked visiting the Bellagio, the giant Strip casino hotel known for its spectacular fountain displays. Another favored place was the Cosmopolitan, the trendy casino hotel that frequently tops best-places-to-stay lists.

He used debit cards to run up personal charges at both facilities. But there was a big problem with this–if federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh are to be believed. The mention of federal prosecutors might make it possible for you to sort of guess where I’m going with this.

According to a 32-page federal indictment issued last month, Retos orchestrated several schemes to misappropriate the proceeds of federally guaranteed loans made to several private businesses he controlled in the plastics industry and to evade taxes “for his own personal use and the use of his family members.” The Las Vegas expenditures are identified as part of this effort.

The 13 counts in the indictment include wire fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. There are some other interesting charges, too, including false bankruptcy declarations and possession of a handgun despite being a long-convicted felon.

Earlier this month, Retos, the only person charged in the indictment although others are mentioned as unindicted co-conspirators, pleaded not guilty and remains free on $25,000 bond. Although this case has plea bargain written all over it, if convicted and hit with maximum sentences, Retos faces what amounts to the rest of his life in prison. A spokesman for him was quoted by a local newspaper as calling the charges “a misrepresentation of facts.”

While the court is sorting this all out, I am nominating Retos for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster consists of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in that Mecca of Mischief called Las Vegas. My list is a New To Las Vegas rebuttal of that famous Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority marketing pitch, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” Other nominees can be found on this page. By clicking on their names, you can learn their sad stories, too. Continue reading

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Another dodgy cancer charity comes acalling in Las Vegas

dodgy canceer charityThe recent telephone call to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters followed the usual pattern. The telemarketer stated the cause, in this instance The Breast Cancer Charities of America, based in The Woodlands, Tex. I was asked to make a verbal donation pledge on the spot, in this instance for “the ladies.”

Tracking the usual pattern, I would be pleased to read any literature sent me but that I couldn’t consider committing to a donation without first having something in writing to review.

Rather than agreeing to mail me materials, the caller promptly hung up. This also traced the usual pattern.

Besides the somewhat abrupt call termination once I expressed a reluctance to donate sight unseen, there were these other elements of the usual pattern. The caller wasn’t even a human but an interactive computer affecting a pleasant voice (female, this time).

And subsequent research by me suggested that the charity was thisclose to being a scam. Looking at BCCA’s own filings with regulators over the past six years, maybe 3% of the cash donations received was spent directly in grants to those in need. The percentage for the most recent year with filings, 2016, was 7%–a little better but still terrible. BCCA also has some skanky running buddies and has received a fair amount of adverse scrutiny, as I will point out.

Now you might assume an outfit with a plural in its name–the Breast Cancer Charities of America–is a widespread organization with scads of employees and volunteers. Your assumption would be way off. While the nonprofit also solicits under other names, including IGoPink and Breast Cancer Support Foundation, the latest tax return in 2016 stated it had only six employees and zero volunteers.

Want to learn more? Come along for the ride. Continue reading

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Las Vegas exhibit to open for war criminal John C. Frémont

war criminal John C. Frémont

John C. Frémont

See update at end of story for my snap review of the Frémont exhibit

The headline was stripped across the top of the printed local news section of today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The ‘Pathfinder’ returns to town,” it read, touting the opening of a laudatory touring exhibit about the life of 19th century military opportunist and politician John C. Frémont (1813-1890). Always good copy, he was dubbed by the press of the era “The Great Pathfinder” for the maps generated under his watch of the American West, which helped the United States literally expand from sea to shining sea.

To me, Frémont was something else–a war criminal, and not just once, either. With that and some of the other stuff in his background, I have not understood why he is as celebrated and so uncritically examined as he is. Streets, neighborhoods, whole cities, schools and a slew of other governmental buildings have been named for him, mainly in the West. In Las Vegas–an area he first visited, for less than a day, in 1844–a part of Fremont Street is a popular tourist venue, home of the Fremont Street Experience. Fremont Street is the site of Nevada’s first legal gambling facility, the original home of the World Series of Poker and the city’s second best-known artery after Las Vegas Boulevard, a/k/a The Strip.

I first wrote about Frémont the man years ago when I lived in Seattle, where a funky, liberal inner-city neighborhood perhaps best known for a clothing-optional parade on the summer solstice is indirectly named for him. To me, the juxtaposition of a war criminal who later became the Republican Party’s first presidential candidate and a progressive section of a progressive town was a hoot. After becoming New To Las Vegas two years ago and observing his sway over Sin City, I wrote about him again. Looks like it’s time for me to take another swing. I am largely drawing upon my previous research and writings.

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Trump, Stormy, Las Vegas–and me

Trump Stormy Las Vegas

Trump Magazine cover March 2006 (via Wikipedia)

Stormy Daniels and Anderson Cooper may have cost me big time in that “60 Minutes” interview on March 25.

Why? From my New To Las Vegas headquarters, I had been trying to sell on Ebay an original edition of a 2006 issue of Forbes magazine with now-U.S. President Donald J. Trump on the cover. That was since Mother Jones magazine reported in January that Daniels had spanked Trump with an issue of Forbes bearing his cover image during a tryst at a Nevada hotel during a golf tournament in 2006. That Mother Jones reported she used an issue of big-money chronicler Forbes–with which I have been associated going back more than three decades–helped make this a more-talked-about incident than if it had been, say, Reader’s Digest.

I happened to own a copy of the only Forbes issue with Trump on the cover that year, the 2006 edition of the annual list of the 400 richest Americans. Putting two and two together and hoping it added up to a cool thou or even more, I ran to Ebay aiming to make America great again for me.

To a “60 Minutes” audience of 22 million viewers undoubtedly hanging on every word, adult-film actress Daniels confirmed her spanking of Trump. But she said it was with a copy of what Trump called “my new magazine,” which just happened to be lying around in his hotel room.

Damn! Those of us who long have written about Trump’s business career know that he had been involved over the years with a number of publications bearing his name (not unlike Oprah Winfrey and her O, The Oprah Magazine). Trump’s title, not Forbes, is what got applied to his derriere. The image of the cover is nearby. Continue reading

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From Las Vegas: Second Amendment defenders are defending slavery

Second AmendmentEvery time there’s a mass shooting–like the one just a few miles from my New to Las Vegas home in October that claimed 58 lives, or the Valentine Day incident last month in a Parkland, Fla., school that killed 17–a national debate breaks out over gun rights and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The powerful National Rifle Association claims folks have a largely unfettered right under that amendment to pack heat. Majority public opinion seems to be something else, but most politicians up to and including President Trump are too afraid of the NRA’s campaign contribution money to do anything substantive.

So allow me to throw another log onto this fire. As I read our country’s history, people who defend the Second Amendment are actually defending a provision attached to the U.S. Constitution that was worded to make it easier for Southern states to preserve slavery. That’s right, slavery. The “well-regulated militia” phrase so famously found in the amendment, just before the equally famous “right of the people to keep and bear arms,” was a reference to officially organized whites-only posses in the South created for the purpose of keeping in line black slaves, who in many places outnumbered the whites.

Southern politicians were afraid of the nascent Federal Government, soon to be dominated by Northern anti-slavery interests. They specifically were worried southern states would be prohibited by federal authorities from continuing to have militias that could rummage through slave quarters without warrants and, I suppose, shoot black folks who got out of line. Continue reading

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Another iffy cancer charity solicits in Las Vegas

iffy cancer charityNew To Las Vegas world headquarters. Ringing phone. “Alice” on the line. Urgent request.

United Breast Cancer Foundation. “Alice” tells me it helps women with financial assistance for things like mammograms. She needs a donation.

So many cancer charities out there with similar names. I ask “Alice” for the organization’s tax identification number to do some research. “Alice” doesn’t have it. She refers me to her “manager,” who does.

By now you’re probably thinking, what with all the damn quote marks? Here’s what’s with all the damn quote marks. “Alice” is not a real person but rather an interactive computer that can recognize some questions and respond. Her “supervisor” is the real human monitoring and directing the computer.

More to the point, from my perspective it also wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to put quote marks around “United Breast Cancer Foundation.” From my reading of its latest available financial filings, the Huntington, N.Y. organization, which also uses the name United Women’s Health Alliance, spent almost none of the cash raised from telemarketing calls such as the one to me on anything I would regard as the financial assistance “Alice” told me about. The rest went to a farrago of fundraising costs and other expenses, including printing, marketing, overhead and, of course, executive compensation.

As a result, various charity watchdog groups hold a rather dim view of UBCF. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance flunks the charity on multiple standards, including one requiring financial statements be put on the charity’s website. Charity Navigator gives UBCF just two stars. Indeed, a few years ago the charity ranked No. 38 on the Tampa Bay Times’ list of America’s Worst Charities, which highlighted tax-exempts that spent very little of the money donated on good deeds. There are more than 1 million nonprofits in the U.S., so UBCF was in rather rarefied company.

And since we all now live in the Age of Trump, there’s even a tangential connection to the extended First Family. Interested? Read on. Continue reading

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Jail for embezzling Scot who partied in Las Vegas

It Didn't Stay Here

Las Vegas Strip (by Stefan Wagener via Wikipedia)

Alicia Moran probably looked like just another happy international traveler as she partied along the Las Vegas Strip in 2015. But the Scottish woman had a wee bit of a problem. She was spending money she had embezzled from Thomas Cook, the giant European travel agency where she worked as a foreign exchange sales assistant.

Indeed, it was while she was living it up in Sin City that U.K. authorities back home made the decision to charge her. Moran was arrested at Glasgow Airport returning from her 10-day trip to the colonies–Vegas and New York. A mother of two, she is now in a Scottish jail serving an 18-month sentence that started last month after admitting she stole about $200,000 in just a six-month period.

Moran, 34, becomes the newest person nominated to my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster consists of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in that bug light of mischief called Las Vegas. My list is a pointed refutation of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. You can see previous nominees elsewhere on this New To Las Vegas page. After the terrible October 1 massacre at an outdoor concert on the Strip, the agency stopped advertising the seemingly powerful pitch but resumed its use last month.

And so do I. Continue reading

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