Tea Party candidate hit with criminal complaint

The legal woes of Scott Ashjian, the Tea Party of Nevada's U.S. senatorial candidate, have entered the criminal arena.

Ashjian was slapped with a criminal complaint dated Thursday alleging two felonies stemming from a bad check.

According to the complaint, Ashjian on Dec. 7 wrote a $5,000 check to a man named Alex Hernandez, and it was returned unpaid.

Ashjian is charged with theft and passing a check without sufficient funds in a bank with intent to defraud.

Ashjian Friday night read from a statement: "These charges are false. We cut a check to a company that we didn't know was unlicensed in the state of Nevada. When we found out that they were doing business illegally, we put a hold on the check. My company isn't going to promote companies that are operating illegally. Again, I have confidence that the facts will become clear."

Ashjian's statement said since he filed for office he has become "a target for frivolous lawsuits, political retaliation, slander," and that those close to him have been threatened. "If the Republican establishment thinks they can bully me out of the race, they are wrong."

He said a disgruntled ex-employee is trying to manipulate the system and that bank documents show the stop payment.

The criminal complaint was filed by Chief Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski with the bad check unit.

Zadrowski was the 2009 Clark County Republican Party chairman and is a current Republican candidate for Las Vegas Justice of the Peace.

Local conservatives have made it no secret they believe Ashjian's candidacy is a political ploy by supporters of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid to siphon votes away from the Republican candidate in November.

Zadrowski did not return a call requesting comment.

Ashjian has maintained his candidacy is legitimate, but the Tea Party Express has launched an ad denouncing Ashjian for running his campaign under the Tea Party of Nevada banner without backing from local and national members of the movement.

Ashjian also has other legal headaches regarding his business.

State officials on Wednesday revoked his contractor's license after he failed to respond to the Nevada State Contractors Board and skipped a hearing regarding defaulted business payments.

The state board has received five complaints that Ashjian's business owes more than $36,000 on various materials in which at least one check was written with insufficient funds. It was unclear Friday whether the criminal complaint against Ashjian stems from that check.

Ashjian also owes more than $200,000 in back taxes on his property, according to county officials.

Review-Journal writer Warren Bates contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.