Nye board refuses to set brothel owner's hearing

One year to the day that brothel owner Maynard "Joe" Richards was sentenced for bribing a Nye County commissioner, regulators seemed poised to finally take action against his licenses.

So much for that.

The county's liquor and licensing board on Thursday declined to schedule a disciplinary hearing that could have put the longtime brothel owner out of business.

Three of the board's six members voted in favor of the hearing, but at least four votes were needed to move ahead, said Nye County Clerk Sandra Merlino.

Commissioner Lordina Wichman cast the only vote against the hearing. The board's two remaining members, Commissioner Joni Eastley and Sheriff Tony DeMeo, did not participate in the meeting.

It's unclear whether the matter will be brought up again for another vote when the entire board is present.

Messages left for Wichman and Commissioner Andrew "Butch" Borasky, who chairs the licensing board, were not immediately returned.

Had it been approved, the so-called "show-cause hearing," tentatively scheduled for Sept. 7, could have resulted in license revocation for Richards' three brothels about 90 miles west of Las Vegas and his strip club in Pahrump.

County officials have drawn criticism for allowing Richards to remain in business after he pleaded guilty in connection with a political corruption scheme aimed at expanding his brothel empire.

Richards was indicted in 2006 on two felony counts of wire fraud after he paid then-Commissioner Candice Trummell $5,000 to rewrite an ordinance that kept him from building a new brothel at the south end of Pahrump.

Trummell was working as an FBI informant, and the meetings and phone conversations she secretly recorded made the government's case against the brothel owner.

In March 2009, Richards pleaded guilty to one of the charges as part of a deal with federal prosecutors that spared him from prison time.

The 76-year-old was sentenced one year ago Thursday. He is expected to complete his one-year term at a Las Vegas halfway house within days, but he is scheduled to remain on probation for another four years.

Richards is in the process of selling two of his three bordellos to Northern Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof, whose Moonlite Bunny Ranch east of Carson City is the setting for a long-running HBO reality show.

Hof said he hopes to see his application to operate in Nye County come up for a vote by the end of August.

He already is planning major renovations at Richards' two brothels in the town of Crystal.

Hof said he plans to turn each property into a desert oasis, one called Dennis Hof's CatHouse and other the Love Ranch Brothel and Bar.

He might even try to capture the whole process on film, maybe turn it into a documentary on the making of a brothel.

It sounds like great television to Hof. "Me on a bulldozer knocking those old buildings down, construction guys yelling, hot girls running around -- I think it'd be great."

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