Hearings on brothel licenses planned

As Nye County officials prepare possible action against his brothel licenses, long-time bordello owner Maynard "Joe" Richards is preparing to appeal his recent sentence on political corruption charges.

Nye County commissioners on Tuesday instructed the district attorney's office to begin preparations for a hearing that could lead to the suspension or revocation of Richards' three brothel licenses.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones sentenced Richards to one year in a halfway house and five years of probation for attempting to bribe a Nye County commissioner.

Attorney Leo Flangas, who represents Richards, filed a notice of appeal Monday with the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.

It's unclear what the action may mean for the plea agreement Richards struck with federal prosecutors in March.

Under the deal, the 75-year-old agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of wire fraud as long as his sentence did not include prison time.

As a condition of the agreement, Richards waived his right to challenge any aspect of his conviction or sentence.

Greg Brower, U.S. Attorney for Nevada, said "it is a little surprising" to now hear that Richards plans to do just that.

"Generally it would violate the terms of the plea agreement," Brower said.

He said whatever Richards' grounds for appeal might be, his office would almost certainly oppose it.

Several messages left for Flangas and Thomas Pitaro, Richards' other attorney, were not returned.

Ron Kent, chief deputy district attorney for Nye County, wouldn't comment on whether an appeal would delay the county hearing on Richards' brothel licenses.

"I will have to take a look at the appeal," he said.

In the meantime, Kent is gathering court transcripts and other documents from Richards' political corruption case so county officials will have all the information they need to decide whether the brothel owner should be allowed to stay in business.

Kent said he is "cautiously optimistic" that a so-called "show-cause hearing" on Richards' licenses can be held within the next 30 days.

The hearing will be conducted before the county's liquor and licensing board, which includes the five county commissioners and the sheriff.

Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo already has excused himself from any review of Richards' licenses because he knows too much inside information about the federal case against the brothel owner.

DeMeo said he learned the information while working as a secret FBI informant from 2003 through 2007.

DeMeo said his work with the FBI was not directly related to the Richards case but involved other "issues with Nye County." He wouldn't elaborate.

It was another federal informant who helped crack the case against Richards.

Then-Nye County Commissioner Candice Trummell recorded numerous meetings and phone conversations with the brothel owner while wearing a wire for the FBI in 2005.

Richards was eventually caught on tape paying Trummell $5,000 to rewrite a county ordinance that was keeping him from opening a new brothel at the south end of Pahrump.

Richards has been ordered to report to a halfway house in Las Vegas by 2 p.m. Monday.

He also was fined $250,000, ordered to report any future payments he might make to public officials, and barred from commenting publicly about Trummell or her family while he's on probation.

Kent, who attended Richards' July 29 sentencing in Las Vegas, said Nye County has not revoked or suspended a brothel license for decades.

County officials also may consider action against the liquor license Richards holds for his castle-themed strip club in Pahrump.

Kent said the charge to which Richards pleaded guilty is a serious one, because it involved an attempt to "corrupt" a public official for the direct benefit of a business regulated by that official.

"That's about as bad as it gets," Kent said.

During Richards' sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre cited the no-appeal clause as one of the reasons prosecutors entered into the plea agreement. That brought "the certainty and finality of a conviction" to the case, Myhre said.

He said the plea deal also would prevent a trial and the release of evidence that may be used in "other investigations."

Brower wouldn't explain what that might mean, but he hinted at the possibility of broader political corruption cases in the future.

"He was a small fish and we fried him. We hung him with a felony," Brower said of Richards last week. "We have bigger fish to fry."

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.