Another faux charity cop outfit solicits illegally in Las Vegas

faux charity cop outfitAt the New To Las Vegas world headquarters recently, I was on the phone with “Vincent Wayne.” The object was to extract a contribution from me for American Police Officers Coalition PAC, which lists a Fairfax, Va., address. It was a standard pitch: thousands of injured cops nationally, the need to elect sympathetic politicians, etc., etc. etc. You can hear the general spiel by clicking on this link, which goes to a recording made by someone else and posted online.

OK, I said. I live in Nevada, where an unusual 2021 state law prohibits fundraising for law enforcement-themed causes without prior registration and the filing of financial statements. I explained this and asked, “Are you registered in Nevada?”

Click.

I think that is Latin for no.

“Wayne” wasn’t a real person (why I’m using quote marks), but rather a computer-generated voice monitored by a real person using what is known as soundboard technology. It’s all the rage among faux charities, political action committees, or PACs, that present as charities but essentially swindle clueless donors across the country by spending nothing on the stated cause. They get away with this mainly because state and federal regulators with only a few exceptions are asleep on the job.

After the abrupt termination of the call, I did a little research. Whadayaknow? Turns out the organization and its parent, the grammatically challenged American Coalition for Police and Sheriff’s PAC, aren’t registered in Nevada, aren’t very old, haven’t ever spent a dime raised on its professed mission to help law enforcement and also filled out a key federal filing incorrectly. Moreover, the paperwork lists as its sole responsible officer someone I’ve written about before in this space, and not very favorably.

Here we go again. Continue reading

How Las Vegas is different: Exit now for what?

destroying marriages since 2012

Large billboard faces northbound drivers along the heavily traveled U.S. 93/U.S. 95/I-11 freeway in Las Vegas

Not far from the New To Las Vegas world headquarters, this billboard for Minks Las Vegas stands along a major freeway. There isn’t much I can add to the photo, since it is easily worth a thousand words.

But I would note this. The Las Vegas economy was jump-started from nothing to something when Nevada legalized quickie divorce (and gambling) in the memorable year of 1931. The Las Vegas area population in the 1930 census was all of 8,532. It’s now 2,250,611.

Sin sells.

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Stormy, Trump, the thwack heard ’round the world–and me in Las Vegas

thwack heard 'round the world

The magazine cover wielded by Stormy Daniels in 2006

The thwack is back. And I remain no richer for it.

At the sensational Donald J. Trump hush money trial in New York yesterday, Stormy Daniels repeated her claim that her 2006 sexual encounter with Trump in his Lake Tahoe, Nevada, hotel room came after she hit him on the rear end with a rolled-up magazine bearing his countenance on the cover.

In court she apparently didn’t specify the specific magazine. But I know which one it is, and for this reason. When word of the slap heard ’round the world first surfaced in 2018, I thought I had an original copy of the issue, which I hoped to turn into big bucks via the auction magic of Ebay.

Turned out I had the wrong magazine. But it’s still a terrific tale. Continue reading

Story about Las Vegas written by far-away reporters wins Pulitzer Prize

story about Las Vegas

Elon Musk as depicted by Reuters

See update at end of story

A story about Las Vegas won a Pulitzer Prize today–but not written by any locals.

A team of reporters at Reuters shared the National Reporting prize for writing about nefarious business activities of Elon Musk. One of those stories, published on July 23, 2023, focused on a Las Vegas-area office of Tesla devoted to talking Tesla drivers out of demanding better battery performance for their electric vehicles.To read the story, click here. That story, along with the series, has caused all kinds of hell for Musk.

I had the pleasure of having dinner with reporters Steve Stecklow, a long-ago colleague long before I became New To Las Vegas on the Philadelphia Bulletin, and Norihiko Shirouzu last year while they were gum-shoeing around town on that story for a few days. Stecklow is based at the Reuters home office in London, U.K., while Shirouzu works out of Austin, Tex.

The story is yet another example of the falsity of that old Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority marketing slogan, What Happens Here, Stays Here. I’m adding Musk as a candidate to my counter-list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s a roster of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. Musk joins such luminaries as Donald J. Trump (twice) and Joseph R. Biden Jr. You can see the full list nearby.

Sometimes, things about Las Vegas come into focus only from a distance.

UPDATE ON MAY 7, 2024

Neither the Las Vegas Review-Journal nor the Las Vegas Sun made mention today in their print editions of the Pulitzer Prize reported out under their very noses. Nor did I see any coverage in the rest of what passes for the Sin City media.   

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John C. Frémont’s one-night stand in Las Vegas–180 years ago this week

Frémont's one-night stand in Las Vegas

John C. Frémont

Of his 77 years on Earth, John C. Frémont (1813-1890) spent just one night–maybe 12 hours tops–in Las Vegas. That was exactly 180 years ago this week, on May 3, 1844, when the Mojave Desert area’s only significant population were Indians, a racial group that Frémont, a military officer and future presidential candidate and celebrity, despised, disparaged and sometimes massacred (along with the occasional Latino). Illegally mapping Mexican territory for a future gringo invasion that he eagerly joined and profited from on the basis of inside information, Frémont with his well-armed troops took off early the next morning for nearby Utah and never returned. The entire account in his famous journals of his one-night stand in Las Vegas fits into a single paragraph in which he mainly obsessed about the warm water.

Yet Frémont’s identification with Las Vegas remains eternal. Long before the Las Vegas Strip there was Fremont Street. The east-west artery cutting through downtown Las Vegas was the heart of gambling after the State of Nevada legalized casinos in 1931. The state’s very first gaming license went to the Northern Club at 15 E. Fremont St. Even as the casino action eventually migrated southward to grander facilities along S. Las Vegas Blvd.–the Strip–Fremont Street held its own. It was on Fremont Street that Buddy Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in 1970 started the World Series of Poker, now the world’s largest such tournament.

Today, there’s the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block-long pedestrian mall festooned with neon, much of it under a 90-foot-high canopy. After the Strip, Fremont Street is undoubtedly Las Vegas’s best-known street.

The adulation of Frémont in Las Vegas continues to utterly mystify me, but praise is not limited to hereabouts. Mainly across the West, cities, counties, neighborhoods, rivers, mountains, streets, schools, libraries and hospitals are named for a man that many Americans today vaguely remember–if they do at all–only from high school American history classes. In my view Frémont was the luckiest U.S. war criminal of the 19th Century.

Continue reading

Ex-soldiers cause trolls Las Vegas for donations but spends $0 on stated mission

ex-soliders causeIt really wasn’t a long telephone call. “Jack Miller” was on the line recently to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters seeking a donation for National Coalition for Disabled Veterans PAC. The stated mission of this organization with a Chicago business address, I was told, was to improve the quality of life for disabled and hospitalized veterans by electing sympathetic politicians to fight for funding.

Okay, I said. How much money was spent last year by NCDV-PAC for this mission?

“I can’t hear you,” “Miller” said. I politely repeated the question.

“I’ll add you to the do-not-call list,” “Miller said. “Goodbye.” Click.

If “Miller” and his organization were on the up-and-up, that shouldn’t have been a hard question to answer. But “Miller” wasn’t a real person (hence my use of quote marks), but rather a computer-generated voice using soundboard technology. A human operator monitoring multiple conversations at a time hits a keyboard to unleash pre-recorded answers to expected questions, easily handling multiple pitches simultaneously and hundreds of asks a shift.

Nor, as I discovered after looking at official public-but-hard-to-find filings, was NCDV-PAC anything close to a worthwhile entity. In its three-and-a-half-year of existence, NCDV-PAC has raised millions of dollars in contributions across the country. Here, according to its own filed-under-penalty-of-perjury reports, is exactly how much of that was spent for the claimed cause during important election cycles:

Zero.

NCDV-PAC is what I call a faux charity. That’s a political action committee that presents as a charity doing noble things, but in reality spends all the money raised in fundraising expense, overhead and undisclosed profits paid to its hidden organizers. There are scores and scores of faux charities out there, more than a few of which I have outed in this space. (Simply type “faux” in the nearby search box to see my body of work here.)  Why the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, the two federal agencies with the most jurisdiction over PACs, allow this to happen is beyond me.
Continue reading

Las Vegas utility controlled by Warren Buffett falsely touts free service

NVEnergy

On the website of NVEnergy

The promotion was right there on the website of NVEnergy, Nevada’s major electric utility owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. “FREE POOL PUMP SUMMER CALIBRATION … Make sure you’re getting the most savings possible by having your pool pump calibrated for FREE!” Also on the page: an image of a fetching ready-to-party young woman with a raft and for some reason waving her arm–standing next to a pool pump, of course. (A screenshot is nearby.)

Great, I thought. The monthly electric usage at the New to Las Vegas world headquarters had gone up 50% over a year earlier, for no obvious reason. We have gas heat, so any colder weather during the past winter shouldn’t have been a big factor. I read somewhere that pool pumps–yes, we have a backyard pool–are often set to run too many hours a day at too high a speed and can consume ungodly amounts of juice. According to the promotion, the NVEnergy summer offer took effect April 1, just a week earlier. All praise Buffett, at age 93 the world’s sixth-richest person ($133 billion, according to Forbes)!

However, as I discovered when I tried to take advantage of the deal, there was a problem. Even though the offer is still up on the NVEnergy site at this writing in a downloadable PDF page, the service is no longer available generally, or at least not for free. NVEnergy farms out the work to a posted list of “approved pool pump calibrators” that electric users like me are invited to contact. But the several I called said the service was not free and would cost me $200 to $300.

Bummer. Continue reading

How to stop red-light runners in Las Vegas: Put ’em on TV

red-light runners in Las VegasHardly a day goes by in Las Vegas that I don’t see multiple flagrant red-light runners. One day last week, in the space of two hours, I saw three of them along a single major Las Vegas street. I stopped for the red light. The motorists in the next lane didn’t. With the light already red, each stepped on the gas and whooshed right past me into and then through the intersection. It’s really amazing no one got hit or killed. I should note this was on Good Friday.

Sadly, such violations seem to be rather common in Las Vegas. Before becoming New To Las Vegas eight years ago, I lived all around the country. Never have I seen the level of fast reckless driving elsewhere that I regularly see here. But the red light violations are particularly egregious. Traffic deaths are way up this year, and it is thought that red-light running is playing an important role.

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill recently told KNPR’s “State of Nevada” public affairs show that despite unspecified stepped up enforcement actions, his Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department agency hasn’t been able to cut down on red light infractions. “We’re just frankly really tired of scraping people up off the streets,” he said.

McMahill has called for installation of traffic cameras that could issue red-light-violation tickets. This would require a change in state law. In a “What Happens Here, Stays Here” valley full of folks here for second chances or kicks, McMahill’s proposal seems to be about as popular as a ban on gambling or show girls.

I have another idea. Unleash the power of reality TV. Continue reading

New filing of cancer faux charity pitching Las Vegas again shows 0% spent fighting cancer

cancer faux charityIn his famous 1930 crime novel The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett wrote, “The gaudier the patter, the cheaper the crook.” He never got a telephone cold-call asking for money from American Breast Cancer Coalition PAC, but he surely would have recognized the pitch.

I, on the other hand, have been called by sweet-talking representatives of this elusive East Coast-based organization any number of times over the past 15 months at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. They pleaded for financial aid to fight this awful illness by backing sympathetic political candidates (PAC means political action committee) who will vote to fund treatments. Hundreds of thousands of other folks around the country likely have received these calls, too.

Now I’m no Sam Spade. He was Hammett’s legendary gumshoe, memorably played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 movie of the same name about fortune-hunters and killers fighting over an ancient object supposedly encrusted in jewels and made of solid gold. But I know how to look up stuff, like ABCC-PAC’s latest filed-with-the-IRS-under-penalty-of-perjury financial report, for the half-year ending December 31, 2023.

Amount of donation money raised nationally: $1.1 million.

Amount of money spent in political contributions to sympathetic candidates: Zero.

That’s right. Zip. Zilch. Goose eggs across the board. You spent far more on your latest Starbucks latte.

In addition, in Nevada, where I live, the way ABCC-PAC operates is illegal under state law, although toothless regulators here do absolutely nothing about it. The m.o. of these faux charities, as I call PACs that present like charities but aren’t, ought to be illegal everywhere, and enforced.

Do I have your attention? I do? Then kindly read on. Continue reading

It Didn’t Stay Here: New Las Vegas photos of Prince Harry in the buff?

Las Vegas photos of Prince Harry

The Sun (London), 2012

Years before I became New to Las Vegas, Prince Harry gave the lie to “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the racy marketing slogan dreamed up for the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority. In 2012, after the gossip website TMZ broke the news, The Sun (London) published pictures of the then-third-in-line-to-the-British throne cavorting in the buff at the Wynn Las Vegas in a private suite festooned with fetching females.

Why do I bring this up now? Two reasons. First, one of the women who apparently was in the room on that sultry August night, who goes by the name Carrie Royale, said earlier this month she has never-before-seen photos of the Duke of Sussex in his birthday suit from then that she is hoping to reveal for big bucks. Royale is described as a “former dominatrix and model.”

Second, as visitors to this space know well, I compile a list of candidates for my running feature, “It Didn’t Stay Here.” It’s a roster of folks in trouble somewhere else for something that happened in Las Vegas, my cheeky rejoinder to the nothing-leaves-Vegas marketing pitch.

My addition of Harry puts him among some big names. They include Donald J. Trump (twice, once for partying in Las Vegas with Russians and their hangers-on who later got him into trouble, and again for funny accounting concerning the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas that found its way into that New York civil fraud suit against him). There’s Joseph R. Biden Jr. (a little too touchy-feely at a Las Vegas political rally). And French President Emanuel Macron (expense account excesses at a Las Vegas trade show trip when he was an economics minister). You can see the entire list nearby.
Continue reading

Now the whole world knows about Las Vegas and its scorpions

Las Vegas and its scorpions

Arizona bark scorpion (via Progressive Pest Control)

Nearly seven years ago in this space, I highlighted the presence in Las Vegas of scorpions. Specifically, I recounted how fortunate it was for the area’s marketing agency, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, that what are now upwards of 40 million tourists a year arrive blissfully unaware of the little buggers hereabouts.

Not any more.

News earlier this week of a California man’s claim that he was stung several times by a scorpion in a very private part of his body while sleeping in his bed at the swank high-rise Venetian Las Vegas on the Strip has exploded across the Internet. My Google search for mentions since Monday in the same article of “Las Vegas” and “scorpion” already has topped 100,000.

Media outlets reported the news were far and wide. There were the usual suspects in the U.S.–meaning just about everywhere. Abroad, I saw a staff-written story in the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English-language newspaper, describing in a dead-pan manner the “unexpected and distressing encounter” of  Michael Farchi, visiting from the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills on the day after Christmas. A long article appeared in London’s MailOnline.com, which gets 191 million visitor views a month.

Although he went to a hospital, Farchi survived. He even managed to snare the perp, a photo of which has been plastered everywhere. Farchi has lawyered up–his mouthpiece is Brian J. Virag, a Los Angeles lawyer who specializes in hotel insect cases and has trademarked the phrase “My Bed Bug Lawyer.” (Who knew bed bugs had lawyers?) But there doesn’t seem to be a lawsuit filed–yet. (An account by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas says the hotel eventually comped the room.) According to news accounts, the hotel hasn’t had much to say.

Still, to my mind, this is just another example of how stuff that isn’t all that unusual but which happens in Las Vegas gets insane attention elsewhere only because it happens in a place with Sin City as its unofficial nickname. I have written before about this phenomenon of the wrath of editors mirroring (or second-guessing) the wrath of God. According to studies I consulted, more than 1 million persons a year get stung by scorpions worldwide, while only 3,000 deaths are reported. You’re far more likely to die from the flu. All this hubbub about one non-fatal scorpion sting in Vegas, even if in a sensitive spot of the anatomy? Continue reading

Faux cop charity soliciting donations in Las Vegas flouts IRS, Nevada regulators

faux cop charitySee update at end of story

A highly dubious organization operating in violation of both state and now federal law is soliciting cash donations around Las Vegas in the name of–wait for this–law enforcement. Can it get any richer than that?

In the past month alone I’ve received a number of telephone calls at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters seeking a donation for either Police Officers Support Committee PAC or National Police Officers Alliance PAC. There’s no material legal difference. They both are names used by something called POSC PAC, ostensibly based in Woodbridge, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C. The callers say donations will be used to benefit law enforcement.

faux cop charityPOSC PAC, the reporting parent, was founded only in January 2023. Since then, it has solicited in Nevada (and presumably nationally) under its “brands.” But in Nevada it has done so without first registering and making filings as mandated by a 2021 Nevada law. Perhaps POSC PAC sensed (correctly, in my view) that the Silver State is not big on consumer protection.

I know about the calls during 2023 because I received some of them, and contemporaneously wrote them up (here and here). I flat out called POSC PAC yet another “faux charity.” That’s a political action committee (the PAC part) that sounds like a charity when making the pitch, but isn’t. Rather, it spends almost all the donations received on fundraising and other overhead and almost nothing on the stated mission of somehow advocating for law enforcement. Organizers often received undisclosed fees. It’s a swarmy racket.

A faux charity is not required to disclose its terrible financial efficiencies when cold-calling someone on the phone, usually using soundboard technology, a human voice controlled by a computer and a supervising operator who responds by choosing pre-recorded answers. When asked by a sucker would-be donor how donations are spent, the answer is often to consult an organizational website or check official periodic filings with government regulators.

Except that POSC PAC has no periodic filings to check!

The organization apparently missed the deadline for publicly reporting to the Internal Revenue Service all of its individual receipts and expenditures during 2023. The report, called a Form 8872 and required to be filed electronically, was due by January 31. “There is no delay in when the form is filed and when it is available” on the IRS website, an agency spokesperson told me. Continue reading

Worthy Las Vegas fallen-cop charity boosts transparency, showing better financial efficiency

Las Vegas fallen-cop charityInjured Police Officers Fund, the legitimate Las Vegas-based charity that funnels financial aid to families of fallen cops in southern Nevada, has taken a major step toward transparency and accountability. In its latest public IRS tax return filing, IPOF revealed for the first time the total amount of contributions received on condition the money quickly went to specifically designated officers. As it turns out, that amount dwarfed the total sum listed as being distributed out of general contributions.

The fuller picture had the beneficial impact of significantly improving a key measure of financial efficiency for IPOF, a potential draw for future donors. Moreover, the new data will help distinguish IPOF from the many illegitimate law enforcement-themed organizations that fraudulently–fraudulently, I say!–seek funds from the Nevada public (and elsewhere). Here in Las Vegas, at least, these outfits have been greatly aided by regulators who don’t enforce disclosure and other laws already on the books.

IPOF’s revelation came after several years of hectoring by me from the New To Las Vegas world headquarters about the charity’s seemingly poor financial efficiency in one important measure and a general lack of transparency. IPOF previously had pleaded individual officer privacy in not revealing the total amount of designated contributions or distributions (the numbers are the same). To me–a national journalist who has been writing about charities, their filings and financial efficiencies for decades–a specific section on the IRS tax return mandated disclosure of this very information. I perceived that the donating public was not seeing the entire picture.

Besides posting here about these issues concerning IPOF, I first pressed these matters more than two years in an interview with Chelsea Stuenkel, IPOF’s then-new president and an officer (sergeant then, lieutenant now) with the Nevada Department of Public Safety. It took a little while, but, as she recently wrote me, “We have in fact changed the way we are reporting specific donations this year after our discussion.” Continue reading

My day in stunning Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas during Super Bowl LVIII

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, taken by the author on Sunday, February 11

While the eyes of the U.S. were obsessively focused on Sunday upon a certain football game (and pop singer) in Las Vegas, I chose a different course. The dog and I drove 50 miles north to Valley of Fire State Park. The 70-square-mile preserve sports breathtaking scenery and, just as significantly thanks to surrounding mountains, no cell phone service and an eerie quiet broken only by wind gusts and the occasional call of a bird.

Blessed by a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-50s, we wandered around dramatically bright red Aztec sandstone, sand dunes, limestone formations and other outcroppings in a variety of shapes and sizes, all crammed into a space just 10 miles across. Some features are as much as 150 million years old, formed by the upheavals of Mother Earth, the inundation and receding of flood waters and the weathering of time. There were enough arches and fallen arches to interest any podiatrist. Valley of Fire provides much food for thought about where this planet is headed.

The park also provided a refuge of sorts. My personal reasons for completely avoiding Super Bowl LVIII were philosophical. It was my continuing (and admittedly inconsequential) protest of the terrible record of the National Football League in protecting the long-term health of the players who have helped make all but two of the NFL’s 32 principal owners billionaires. Coupled with Nevada’s own lousy record in health care and the proximity of the game just seven miles from the New To Las Vegas world headquarters, it was imperative I get out of town for the day. (Read my fuller objections by clicking here.)

The contrast between the naturalness of Valley of Fire and the artificial glitz of Las Vegas, with a pyramid-shaped hotel and cheesy scaled-down replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, is startling. Valley of Fire is the real deal. Continue reading