Firefighters charity cleared to solicit in Las Vegas is more smoke than fire

From the website of Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, you can determine if a specific charity is registered to solicit for donations in the Silver State. But that website won’t tell you at all if that charity has spent almost none of the money raised on good works and/or is poorly rated by charity watchdogs.

Indeed, the bland, bare-bones summary financial listing available–revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities–might even provide false comfort to an unwary donor. The display seems to be in keeping with Nevada’s failing grade regarding public access to information.

For such important charity data, you have to go to sources outside Nevada. Having written for decades about nonprofits big and small before becoming New To Las Vegas, I know a little bit about how to find, interpret and explain this material. So from time to time in this space, I’ll offer an overview of specific charities allowed to ask for money in Nevada, along with my opinion. Since most of them operate nationally, my musings might be of interest to viewers elsewhere.

Today’s subject is the Firefighters Charitable Foundation, of far-away Farmingdale, N.Y. It filed its current registration to solicit in Nevada less than a month ago on July 7.

According to its latest public IRS Form 990 tax filing (which I found outside Nevada), the FFCF spent less than 4% of the money raised on what I would call good works. Equally outrageously, nearly 90% of the donations went to paid fundraisers. And from the filing, it’s appears there was no iron-clad requirement that the few dollars remaining for good works all went to firefighters or even victims of fires. Reputable charity monitors have nothing good to say about the FFCF.

Want to know some more? Read on. Continue reading

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Las Vegas weddings are still a big industry

Las Vegas weddings

Britney Spears (via Wikipedia)

Remember that Britney Spears marriage to a childhood friend in 2004 that lasted only 55 hours? The wedding took place in Las Vegas, where nuptials remain almost as big a deal as gambling and entertainment.

Last year, 81,325 marriage licenses were issued in Clark County, home of Las Vegas. That’s one out of every 25 marriages in the entire country. County officials estimate 80% of the licenses go to tourists, or folks who don’t live here.

While way down from the 126,000 licenses generated in 2004, all this love still generates a lot of local loot. By one estimate, Las Vegas weddings create $2 billion a year in local revenue. Experts think 4% of the 40 million annual visitors to Las Vegas come to attend a wedding.

Las Vegas calls itself the Wedding Capital of the World, and there’s actually a Las Vegas Wedding Chamber of Commerce to promote the industry. Local poobahs bragged when the 10,000th same-sex marriage license was issued earlier this year.

Nevada has what are just about the most liberal marriage laws around. Don’t have to be a resident. No blood test required. No waiting period. Just be single, stay away from first or second cousins, be 18 years old, and bring ID. The state will allow an officiant to preside at a wedding with an “ordination” obtained over the Internet from an outfit like the Universal Life Church. This is a common way for a friend or family member, even from out of state, to preside at a Nevada wedding. Continue reading

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Trump partied in Las Vegas with Russians and infamous email writer

It Didn't Stay Here

Donald J. Trump (via Wikipedia)

For my list It Didn’t Stay Here, I have even a bigger name to nominate than French President Emmanuel Macron: Donald J. Trump.

CNN just posted video of a June 2013 schmoozy meeting in Las Vegas involving Trump, assorted rich or prominent Russians, and Rob Goldstone, the British publicist who wrote the now-infamous “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” email to Donald J. Trump Jr., who released it yesterday to the public just ahead of The New York Times.

Trump Jr.–who answered that email, “I love it”–wasn’t at the session, which occurred long before I became New To Las Vegas. But Trump Sr. certainly looks pretty chummy with all the Russians, some of whom are at the center of this email brouhaha. Trump ties with Russians are causing him all kinds of political problems in far-away Washington, D.C. He has denied much in the way of connections, but this isn’t going to help him.

My It Didn’t Stay Here list notes people in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. It’s a takeoff on “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 page.

I think Trump may have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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It Didn’t Stay Here: 2016 Las Vegas trip by Emmanuel Macron under scrutiny

It Didn't Stay Here

Emmanuel Macron at the 2016 CES in Las Vegas (via Business France)

I finally have a big name to nominate for my list It Didn’t Stay Here, folks getting heat elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas: Emmanuel Macron. He’s only the newly elected president of France. Is that big enough for you?

According to the Associated Press, the Paris prosecutor’s office today–yes, today!–opened an investigation into “suspected irregularities in the organization of a costly, high-profile event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show [in Las Vegas] that Macron headlined when he was a French government minister.”

My list, of course, pokes fun at “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” that great marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It’s not always true, as you can ascertain quickly by clicking on the names of previous nominees found nearby on this page. Continue reading

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Miss. jailbreak leads to Las Vegas bust

It Didn't Stay Here

Issac Bennett (photos courtesy Tishomingo County Sheriff’s Office)

It Didn't Stay Here

Jonathan Hamm

Las Vegas is famous as a town of second chances, a place where someone can get a fresh start. It’s almost part of the culture and a reason, I suspect, why a lot of people gravitate here.

Well, that and maybe they also like to gamble.

With these possible motivations, Jonathan Hamm and Issac Bennett showed up last week in Sin City. They most recently were residents of Iuka, Miss., in the state’s hard-scrabble northeastern corner not far from Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo.

However, Hamm and Bennett carried some baggage. They were riding in a locally stolen car Bennett was driving when Las Vegas Metro police pulled them over late one night. Nor, as it turned out, was that the pair’s first stolen vehicle of the month. They had escaped together a week earlier from the Tishomingo County Jail in Iuka (pronounced eye-YOU-ka) and had swiped a vehicle to hot-foot it out of town. This buddy act was still on the lam.

Hamm, 26, and Bennett, 23, were arrested and put in a Clark County jail pending their eventual return to Mississippi. They will face escape, vehicle theft and damage-to-public-property charges on top of whatever they were in jail for in the first place.

Accordingly, I’m nominating Hamm and Bennett for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s a roster of of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Vegas. This is a twist on the famous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” You can find the entire list elsewhere on this page.

In this case, the Vegas happening is the continuing escape that ended here and will be prosecuted in Mississippi. It’s not clear if Bennett (whose first name is spelled variously in different official records as Issac or Isaac) as the driver will first face Nevada charges for stealing the car in which they were riding. Continue reading

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Las Vegas Strip isn’t in Las Vegas, and other oddities

Las Vegas Strip

Ex-Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman somewhere near Las Vegas and the Strip (via Zimbio)

Everyone around the world knows about the Las Vegas Strip. But does everyone know it isn’t in Las Vegas?

Nor is the main campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Or the Las Vegas Convention Center. Or even the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, a photo of which graces the top of this blog. The about-to-be-built stadium for the NFL’s transplanted Las Vegas Raiders? Fuggedaboutit.

You may have seen over the years any number of photos, like the one gracing this post, of mob-lawyer-turned-Las-Vegas-mayor-turned-retiree Oscar Goodman sipping a cocktail in the presence of Strip showgirls. You might think he had some official jurisdiction and authority over the Strip. You would be wrong. There’s even a pretty good chance such photos weren’t taken in Las Vegas or the Strip (this one from 2014 certainly wasn’t).

The post office aids this charade. It allows many addresses in unincorporated Clark County, a land mass bigger than Delaware and Connecticut combined, to say they are in world-famous Las Vegas rather than, say, the unincorporated townships of Paradise (the area to which I moved after becoming New To Las Vegas that also includes most of the Strip, UNLV and the proposed stadium) or Winchester (another area that contains part of the Strip).

All the locals know this, of course, but, I suspect, few of the visitors. There’s some interesting history here. Continue reading

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Deported from Virginia for a Las Vegas-based Ponzi

It Didn't Stay Here

Angelina Lazar in 2006 during her Las Vegas days

More than a decade ago, Angelina Lazar spent time in Las Vegas running a business called Charismatic Exchange. It purported to be a dealer in foreign currency. She told would-be investors to expect a risk-free return of 20%–every month.

During 2005 and 2006, Lazar tried to cut a wide swath around Sin City. The Internet has glamorous photos of her from that time, like the one adorning this post. In one press release she called herself the “esteemed community mayor of Las Vegas.” Lazar curried favor with local and national Republican politicians.

She’s long gone from her apartment on W. Sahara Ave. and her offices on W. Lake Mead Boulevard and Howard Hughes Parkway. Nor is she likely to return in a physical sense. Last month, Lazar, 54, pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria Va., to running a Ponzi scheme out of Las Vegas. She was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution and immediately deported to Canada, where she is a citizen.

Lazar thus becomes the latest candidate for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster consists of individuals who get into trouble someplace else for something that happened in Las Vegas. It is a play on “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous promotional slogan of the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority. The full list can be found elsewhere on this page. Continue reading

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Las Vegas and environs profit from UFO aura

Las Vegas UFO

Alien Cathouse Vegas Brothel, Amargosa Valley, Nev.

By itself, the Las Vegas Strip is almost other-worldly, brimming as it does with neon lights, volcanoes, pyramids, towers and other strange shapes all jumbled together. So maybe it’s not all that surprising that Las Vegas and its environs revel in–or at least profit from–that enduring category of human curiosity called unidentified flying objects.

Strip souvenir stores have lots of UFO knickknacks–T-shirts sporting triangular heads of supposed extraterrestrial aliens and coffee mugs referencing Area 51. That’s the top-secret U.S. military base 90 miles north of town said to be involved, if you believe the gossip, in UFO body-storage (but far more likely, development of military aircraft like the U-2 spy plane and testing of captured foreign war planes). The minor league baseball team, the Triple A affiliate of the New York Mets, is called the Las Vegas 51s. Cashman Field, the team’s home stadium, is festooned with images of ETs.

At about $200 a pop, tour operators run all-day trips from Las Vegas to the very edge of Area 51, where the tiny town of Rachel, Nev. (population 54) sits on State Route 375. The utterly desolate road is officially named (I kid you not) the Extraterrestrial Highway, due to both the proximity of Area 51 and the number of UFO sightings reported thereabouts over the years. In Rachel, an “alien burger” is on the menu at the Little A’Le’Inn.

For a different kind of trip, one can visit the Alien Cathouse Vegas Brothel in Amargosa Valley, Nev., 60 miles northwest of Las Vegas, along U.S. 95 on the south side of the vast Nevada Test and Training Range off which Area 51 sits on the northeast side. That’s a house of legal prostitution and, I suppose, a destination if a UFO lands nearby and the pilot says, “Take me to your breeder.” Continue reading

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Unlicensed pilot flew jet to Las Vegas

It Didn't Stay Here

Falcon 10 turbojet (via Wikipedia)

When Orville and Wilbur Wright made their famous first powered flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C. on December 17, 1903, they didn’t have pilot licenses. No such things existed. But since 1927, every civilian pilot in the U.S. has had one. For nearly a century it’s been a federal criminal act to operate aircraft without proper permissions.

Which brings me to one Arnold Gerald Leto III. He was just sentenced in Los Angeles federal court to hard time after pleading guilty to piloting aircraft without the correct license. Since I am New To Las Vegas, you probably know where I’m going with this. One of those flights, in a Falcon 10 turbojet like the one pictured nearby, was to the bright lights of Sin City.

So Leto gets a nomination to my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s devoted to examples of people getting in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. It’s a counter-argument, of course, to that catchy pleasure-seeking marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” Continue reading

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Prison for NY pet pound staff who spent stolen funds in Las Vegas

It Didn't Stay HereLike pet shelter organizations everywhere, the Central New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seeks homes for unwanted four-legged creatures and raises public awareness about abuse and neglect.

But the CNYSPCA in Syracuse is unusual in one big respect. Paul Morgan, its former executive director, and Taylor Gilkey, an ex-staffer identified as his on-and-off girl friend, recently were sent to prison for embezzling more than $800,000 to pay for, among other things, gambling junkets to Las Vegas. That’s money that could have helped a lot of dogs and cats.

Morgan and Gilkey are hereby nominated to my new list, It Didn’t Stay Here. These are people who get into trouble elsewhere for something that happened in that bug light called Las Vegas. My list is a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal of that famous Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority slogan, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” The names of all nominees can be found elsewhere on this page along with, by clicking on their names, their sad stories. Continue reading

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