Tax filings raise questions about Las Vegas charity for fallen cops

Injured Police Officers FundNearly two years ago, not long after becoming New To Las Vegas, I wrote in this space about the Injured Police Officers Fund. It’s a now-36-year-old Las Vegas-based charity accepting tax-deductible contributions whose stated mission is to “provide financial assistance to families of officers injured or killed in the line of duty” in Southern Nevada.

Based on my review of the organization’s 2015 federal tax return and my many years writing about nonprofits, I declared then that the IPOF, which sometimes pops up in the local news after an officer is hurt or killed, seemed a cut above most law enforcement-themed charities. This was mainly because the IPOF eschewed direct mail and telephone cold-calling in its fundraising efforts and so didn’t hand over most of the money raised to outside paid telemarketers, as was often the case with cop charities.

But fundraising is only one part of any charity’s performance. So when the IPOF’s tax return for 2017 became public record last month, I decided to find filings as many years back as I could to make a long-term assessment. I was able to locate 17 tax returns in the public record from 2001 to 2017–nearly half the IPOF’s entire existence. Putting all the data on a spreadsheet, I crunched the numbers.

Alas, I regret to say that the larger picture suggests a number of troubling questions about how the money the IPOF received was spent–or not. And since I last wrote about the charity, it seems that wives of some police officers have started asking pointed questions of their own about the IPOF. They even have an open Facebook group page suggesting that something iffy is afoot. Continue reading

Las Vegas contingent falters on Forbes 400 list

Forbes 400Keeping a fortune growing smartly can be as hard as amassing it in the first place, at least around Las Vegas. That’s my New To Las Vegas take-away from the latest annual edition of the famous Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, which was released this week.

Last year’s roster listed nine from Vegas. This year: just seven. And most of the remaining ones did not outperform the average 7% yearly gain of their peer group.

Casino czar and local newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson remained the wealthiest person in town (and the state) at No. 15 on the Forbes list. The 85-year-old was valued at $35.5 billion, up $100 million from last year. But that’s an increase of barely 1/4 of 1%. He dropped a click in the ranking.

Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie, 67, remained the richest woman in town (and the state) with a really good year. She was up $800 million, a hefty 16%, to $5.7 billion, also moving up her 13 notches from last year to No. 109.

But Andrew and Peggy Cherng, owners of the Panda Express Chinese restaurant empire, completely disappeared from the U.S.-only list. Last year they shared a No. 226 rank with a combined net worth of $3.3 billion. It’s my understanding that Forbes now values couples actively involved in a business individually. With the cut-off this year for the list–No. 400–rising to $2.1 billion a head, that means the Cherngs between them would have needed $4.2 billion. Forbes figures they’re now down to $2.9 billion. Continue reading

Kids Wish Network–one-time ‘worst charity in America’–prowls anew in Las Vegas

Kids Wish NetworkLong before New To Las Vegas, I was New To Seattle. And it was in the Emerald City way back in 2012 that I first got called on the phone from a fundraiser for a Holiday, Fla., charity called Kids Wish Network. She asked for a donation to help children with life-threatening conditions.

I asked how much of cash donations went to fundraising as opposed to the children. The fundraiser said she had no current information. That pretty much ended that conversation. After looking up documents online, I had my answer: 74%, meaning barely a quarter of what was raised remained available for everything else, including kids. I wrote up KWN in a withering post headlined “Another day, another dodgy charity calls around Seattle.” You can read it by clicking here.

The next year, KWN popped up as No. 1 on a list put together by the Tampa Bay Times of “America’s Worst Charities.” The once-off roster of 50 was based on two factors: the large amount of money raised over time that went to fundraisers, and the tiny amount of money going out in cash grants in support of the stated mission. The paper flatly called KWN the “worst charity in America.” I can’t say I was surprised by KWN’s ranking.

But here’s something surprising to me. Despite my earlier lashing, a KWN fundraiser asking for money just called me again, this time at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. The conversation was even briefer. The caller–actually an interactive computer–quickly hung up as I again started asking questions, not even answering one.

And again looking up documents online, the organization seems to me no less sketchy, as I will explain more fully below. Meanwhile, I am nominating KWN for my own long-running list: America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is pretty basic: nonprofits that call me asking for money despite being the subject of a previous critical post by me. I mean, can it get any dumber than that? The list of other nominees can be found nearby. Continue reading

In Las Vegas, Clark County Parks and Rec has a doggone problem

Earlier this year, a Las Vegas woman whose small dog was killed by a bigger dog at Dog Fancier’s Park shamed Clark County Parks and Rec officials by going public on TV to complain about the lack of a dedicated dog run for smaller canines. Nor, as I earlier had recounted here, was that the first such recent attack at the sprawling off-leash East Las Vegas facility off E. Flamingo Road near the New To Las Vegas world headquarters.

Since then, chagrined county managers have been rushing to remake Dog Fancier’s Park by adding fencing to create new dog runs for smaller dogs and installing a whole lot of new warning signs. That’s all good. But maybe a little too much rushing, judging from the embarrassing capitalization, spelling and word spacing errors displayed on one newly posted large new sign (red annotations are by yours truly):

Dog Fancier's Park

“Learn the 4P Warning Signs” to prevent dog fights, the metal sign proclaims near the top. To Parks and Rec, I suggest a fifth P.

Proofreading.

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

It Didn’t Stay Here: Alleged Las Vegas affair before ritzy New York wedding

Las Vegas affairThere’s nothing like an alleged affair in Las Vegas with a Trump angle to spice up the pre-Labor Day dog days of summer.

Page Six, the venerable gossip arm of The New York Post, is reporting today that a Las Vegas waitress starting posting online photos allegedly proving she had a brief affair earlier this year in Las Vegas with an heir to a New York laundry fortune hours before his marriage last weekend at a ritzy Long Island venue to a manager at The Trump Organization. To make the account even more delicious, the waitress, who goes by the name Mayra Angel, posted the photos on Instagram using a hashtag set up by the couple, ensuring that the bride, bridegroom and all the guests would see them.

The heir, Cory Perlson, denied any fling whatsoever, according to The Post. His lawyer is trying to get some kind of restraining order against Angel while also seeking to convince prosecutors to bring criminal charges. What they might be is unclear, if Angel truthfully told The Post she requested no money and hasn’t been in contact with Perlson or his now-wife, Brianna Ehland. Her LinkedIn profile says she has been senior manager of social marketing for The Trump Organization since early 2016 and is a 2014 graduate of the University of Arizona.

But this is more than enough to make Perlson a candidate for my New To Las Vegas list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s a roster of folks in hot water somewhere else for something that happened in Vegas. It’s a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the infamous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Continue reading

In Las Vegas, watch what they write, not what they show, at Sprouts

At Sprouts Farmers Market in Las Vegas–and, I suppose, everywhere else across the 325-store chain in 19 states–it’s fine to look at the big colorful packaging on the items. But make very sure you read the smaller type.

Here’s what I saw today in the store at the corner of E. Flamingo Rd. and S. Pecos Rd. The red annotation was added by yours truly at the nearby New To Las Vegas world headquarters.

Sprouts

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

Sketchy law enforcement supporter trolls Las Vegas

Sketchy law enforcement supporterIn the past month or so I have received several telephone calls at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters from cold-calling telemarketers soliciting a donation for something they call Association for Police and First Responders. They made it sound like a charity that would funnel large amounts of needed aid to, well, police and first responders.

Don’t believe it.

For starters, there really is no APFR. It’s a dba used by a Washington, D.C.-based outfit called Heroes United PAC. That’s right, PAC, as in political action committee, supposedly working to influence elections. Heroes United PAC isn’t a charity at all, although it also solicits under the seemingly charitable name Volunteer Firefighters Association.

According to Heroes United PAC’s filings with the Federal Election Commission–not exactly a charity regulator–in a year-and-a-half of existence, about 90% of the $2.6 million raised went for fundraising costs. That left just 10% for the mission, in this case exercising political influence to advance law enforcement interests. That only 10 cents on the dollar went to the cause is a fact that would-be donors are not advised of upfront and likely would not be pleased to learn even if they didn’t mind being fooled by the charity-sounding spiel of the telemarketers.

Aside from a single $9,800 expenditure in support of one candidate, it’s a little unclear where all of the other money has gone–so much so that the FEC has raised questions. But gone it has. Despite receiving that $2.6 million, Heroes United PAC as of June 30 had only $3,533.87 in cash on hand. That’s not going to fund much of a campaign for anyone or any cause in the fall elections.

Indeed, Heroes United PAC is so sketchy it can’t even get its names all straight. The telemarketers who called me, the website and even the logo displayed nearby on this page called it the Association FOR Police and First Responders (my emphasis). But the filings to the FEC–which are under penalty of perjury–used Association OF Police and First Responders (again my emphasis). It’s only a preposition, but the variance is further evidence to me that something is off. Continue reading

It Didn’t Stay Here: New Jersey jail guard fired after phoning in sick from Las Vegas

It Didn't Stay Here

Camden County Correctional Facility, Camden, N.J. (courtesy Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders)

The title of the 40-page document is hardly a grabber: “State of New Jersey, Final Administrative Action of the Civil Service Commission. In the Matter of Tia Smith, Camden County Correctional Facility, Department of Corrections.” But for several reasons its contents spoke loudly to me.

Smith, a correction officer with two college degrees and six years on the job, flew with friends to celebrate her birthday in Las Vegas last year. But according to the decision, rather than getting back in time to Camden for her next assigned shift, she falsely phoned in sick while still in Las Vegas. Partly because this was not her first offense as an employee, Smith was fired. The dismissal was upheld this month by the independent New Jersey state agency charged with protecting governmental workers against arbitrary employment actions.

This more than makes Smith a candidate for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster consists of folks in trouble somewhere else for something that happened in Vegas. It’s a refutation of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. My ever-lengthening list of nominees can be found elsewhere on this page. Smith has some prominent company, including Bill Cosby, Donald J. Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron.

But there’s another reason this case drew my attention. Long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I was New To Camden, which is just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. I was born and raised in Camden County, then and now a place full of governmental mischief. For most of the 1970s and into the 1980s I worked there as a reporter for several newspapers. One of them was the Camden Courier-Post, whose reporter, Jim Walsh, recounted today the sad story of Smith’s dismissal, for which I am indebted. My account is drawn from the aforementioned Civil Service Commission decision, incorporating and ratifying the written opinion of Administrative Law Judge Dorothy Incarvito-Garrabrant. Continue reading

A charity fundraising pitch in Las Vegas for the dogs

Dogs for Law EnforcementUpdated on June 18, 2018.   See end of post

The recent telephone caller to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters said his name was Sam. He was cold-calling on behalf of Dogs for Law Enforcement. Sam described this as a national charitable organization based in the Houston area providing police agencies with trained dogs that cost $20,000 to $50,000 each. The agencies, Sam said, get the pooches “at no cost to the taxpayer.” He asked for a pledge that he said would be tax-deductible.

I sniffed the air. A tax-deductible contribution would cost taxpayers somewhere the value of any tax savings I might get, even if not where the dogs were furnished.

I sniffed the air again. Since Sam volunteered nothing, I asked him directly how much of the donations received actually went to the stated mission of providing and training dogs.

There was a pause. Ten percent, he replied.

So that meant 90% of cash gifts went for fundraising and other stuff rather than dogs, I suggested. Sam had a reply I didn’t understand.

But with for-profit middlemen getting such a rake-off, I knew by then the essence of what I needed to know. After Sam and I ended our conversation, I did some more sniffing around. It’s actually worse than I thought, including the fact that DLE never has been registered to solicit in Nevada. That makes very illegal the pitch to me on behalf of, ironically, dogs helping the law. Continue reading

Far from Las Vegas, thoughts on the Abscam sting of conman Mel Weinberg

Mel Weinberg

Christian Bale playing the Mel Weinberg character in “American Hustle” (courtesy Sony Pictures)

The New York Times just published an obituary of Mel Weinberg. Can’t place him? He was the convicted conman-turned-FBI-informant who brought down a slew of bribe-taking politicians in the Abscam scandal, which surfaced in 1980 along the East Coast in such places as Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, New York City, Long Island, Camden, N.J. and Atlantic City.

You might remember the 2013 movie “American Hustle,” which is somewhat based on Abscam. The Weinberg character, renamed Irv Rosenfeld, is played by Christian Bale. His girlfriend is played by Jennifer Lawrence.

Weinberg died in Florida at age 93, having outlived just about everyone he plotted with or swindled. The Times for some reason afforded him an honor normally reserved for the high and mighty: a pre-death interview for the obituary. “I’ve had a good life, a charmed life,” he said in 2017. “I should have been dead a long time ago.”

As a newspaper reporter long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I covered Abscam when it broke. I never met Weinberg. But after “American Hustle” was released in 2013, I wrote an essay about the film’s connection with reality for NewToSeattle.com, a previous blog of mine, and discussed Weinberg. Below is my lightly re-edited account. Continue reading

Far from Las Vegas, the racist cant of the National Anthem and its lyricist

racist cant of the National Anthem

Francis Scott Key

You might think that President Donald J. Trump, who demands that pro football players stand for the National Anthem, would at least know its words himself and sing them with hearty gusto. Alas, it was painfully clear from his White House event yesterday, rebranded as a patriotic “Celebration of America” function after most players on the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles signaled they would skip the visit, that he doesn’t and can’t. Per the video,Trump seemed to have trouble remembering and vocalizing all the lyrics.

But overall that may not be such a bad thing. As I have pointed out before, “The Star-Spangled Banner” contains lyrics–mercifully, rarely sung–that welcomes the killing of fleeing slaves. Moreover, lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), the man who wrote those words as a poem in 1814, was a slaveowner himself who opposed abolition and who as a government prosecutor once tried to jail a writer who truthfully wrote that the nation’s capital was a stinking, lousy place for blacks to live.

Growing up in the Philadelphia area long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I rooted for the Eagles. The forthright position now of the team’s players, who unlike some on other NFL teams never failed to stand for the anthem (contrary to what Trumpeter Fox News reported for a time) but respected those who didn’t, makes me think I should repeat some of the bad history.  Continue reading

A snapshot of Las Vegas

Among the most important stories right now on a Saturday afternoon around the New To Las Vegas headquarters, according to the home page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: four suspicious deaths in three incidents and an Army deserter running in a GOP primary (considered the least significant of the four stories). Welcome to Sin City.snapshot of Las vegas

Unique execution of Las Vegas killer would not be Nevada’s first

See update at end of story.

execution of Las Vegas killer

Scott Dozier (courtesy Nevada Department of Corrections)

Scott Dozier sits on death row in Nevada awaiting execution for the 2002 murder in a Las Vegas Strip motel of a fellow drug dealer, who was then sawed into multiple pieces, stuffed (mostly) into a suitcase and discarded. Dozier, 47, who also has been convicted of murder in Arizona, acknowledges guilt and says he wants to die. The State of Nevada is quite willing to accommodate him.

But for the prescribed method of lethal injection, the Nevada Department of Corrections has proposed using a three-drug combination that has never been used before, in Nevada or elsewhere. Even though Dozier now says he doesn’t much care how he dies, the case has been bouncing around Nevada courts. One issue is whether the specific mix–the paralytic drug cisatracurium, the anti-anxiety drug diazepam and the pain reliever fentanyl–violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment,” if not for Dozier, then for future condemned inmates.

Now, as someone New To Las Vegas, I think it can be fairly debated whether a thinly populated, minimal government desert state like Nevada has the expertise and competence to pull off a humane execution using an untested process, in this case the specific drug combo. But astonishingly, this wouldn’t be the first time that Nevada has ventured down this Brave New World path.

You see, it was Nevada that became the first jurisdiction in the entire world to execute a condemned prisoner in a gas chamber. That was nearly a century ago in 1924. The state somewhat botched the first attempt. There are lessons here. Continue reading

Las Vegas as observed by Tom Wolfe in 1964

Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe (via National Endowment for the Humanities)

Some of the tributes to Tom Wolfe, the famously cutting New Journalism wordsmith who died last week at age 88, made reference to one of his earliest magazine efforts, a 1964 article for Esquire about a town arising in the Nevada desert called Las Vegas. As his obituary in The New York Times quoted–high up–one literary critic, “His prose style is normally shotgun baroque, sometimes edging over into machine-gun rococo, as in his article on Las Vegas which begins by repeating the word ‘hernia’ 57 times.”

I read that article years before becoming New To Las Vegas. After locating a copy this week, I counted. Indeed, the word “hernia” does appear exactly 57 times at the start.

Wolfe’s work is entitled “Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can’t Hear You! Too Noisy) Las Vegas!!!!” That might give you a sense of Wolfe’s overall take, which isn’t too complimentary. But his piece sure is a great read.

Continue reading

In Las Vegas, Nevada Secretary of State’s Office proves its incompetence yet again

An expose put online today by the Las Vegas Review-Journal describes how the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office does little to nothing to stop scamsters from making fake corporation filings with the agency to swindle folks out of property in Las Vegas and elsewhere. Even worse, the agency disclaims any responsibility. The story, by reporter Brian Joseph, says this lack of due diligence by the office has been a problem “for years.”

I’ll say. Way back in 1991, long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I wrote in Forbes about how the very same office accepted incorporation papers from a nonexistent company in a nonexistent country, both established by a sketchy, mysterious character who turned out to be a repeat conman still on parole. Even worse, agency officials said they were under no obligation to check anything–even after they got a warning from another Nevada agency.

It sounds like nothing has changed. Continue reading

As feds ponder nuke dump near Las Vegas: Payback for decades of dirty dealings?

nuke dump near Las Vegas

Mushroom cloud from 1951 nuclear test within sight of Las Vegas casinos (via Wikipedia)

Much of the Las Vegas and Nevada political establishment is up in arms over legislation moving through Congress that would jump-start plans to store power plant nuclear waste from 39 states at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. By an overwhelming vote a bill to resume the licensing process after an eight-year delay just passed the House of Representatives. The Senate Republican leadership won’t consider it until after the November elections to give Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, in a tough re-election campaign, some breathing room. Even though he opposes Yucca Mountain, it wouldn’t look too good if the legislation passed on his party’s watch.

The Yucca Mountain proposal has been around since 1987; the feds already have spent something like $9 billion in research and test tunnel costs. When he was the Senate majority leader, long-time Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saw to it that plans went nowhere. But then the Senate turned Republican. Reid retired. Ergo, the Yucca renaissance.

As someone still New To Las Vegas, I have a theory here. To me, the potential siting of a nuclear waste dump in Nevada smacks of payback for all the years the state profited mightily from stuff illegal for the longest time in the rest of the country: casino and other forms of gambling, prostitution, quicky marriage and divorce, tolerance for organized crime, and super-secret incorporation laws.

Then there’s the state’s tax structure (no state income tax and modest property taxes), which attracts new residents from other states struggling to hold on to their tax bases. Add to that Nevada’s still-modest population of barely 3 million, its remoteness and its wide open spaces. It’s not hard to see why Nevada would be an inviting prospect (to non-Nevadans) for a nuclear storage facility that would have to last at least 10,000 years. Continue reading

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

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

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.

Continue reading

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