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Ex-fire captain sent to prison

A former Clark County Fire Department captain must spend the next decade in a federal prison for using the Internet to arrange a sexual encounter with a minor.

Before he was sentenced Friday, Martin Vohwinkel expressed remorse and asked U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt to consider the work he did for the community during his nearly 30 years as a firefighter.

“I beg you for leniency,” the defendant said.

Vohwinkel, 56, of Las Vegas pleaded guilty in September to one count of using a facility of interstate commerce to coerce and entice a minor for sex.

“I would like you to know that from day one I accepted responsibility for this,” he told the judge on Friday.

Hunt imposed the mandatory minimum sentence for Vohwinkel’s crime and gave him until Feb. 18 to surrender to prison. The defendant will face lifetime supervision after release from prison.

Henderson police arrested Vohwinkel in February, and a federal grand jury indicted him in March.

According to the arrest report, an undercover detective arranged a meeting with Vohwinkel after seeing a Craigslist.com “casual encounter” posting seeking a “very young girl.”

Police arrested Vohwinkel in a parking lot where he was expecting to meet a 14-year-old girl, the report said.

At a hearing in March, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Koppe said Vohwinkel sent the detective an e-mail in which he wrote “the younger the better.” Vohwinkel also sent a nude picture of himself.

In addition, he offered to bring marijuana to the meeting and had a condom in his vehicle, Koppe said.

At the sentencing hearing, Koppe said authorities later found a young girl’s underwear and jeans in Vohwinkel’s locker at work.

Defense attorney Bill Terry said Vohwinkel’s family, including his wife, continues to support him.

“They will be here for him when he returns,” Terry said.

John Pacult, a licensed clinical social worker who conducted a psychosexual evaluation of Vohwinkel, described the defendant in his report as a “functional alcoholic.”

According to the report, Vohwinkel began soliciting prostitutes about 10 years ago, and “his behavior escalated from there.”

Pacult concluded that Vohwinkel does not have a sexual attraction toward prepubescent children. Pacult also concluded that Vohwinkel “poses a low risk to re-offend sexually — so long as he continues to remain in therapy and on medication, along with having the necessary support and supervision once he is back in the community.”

Vohwinkel, a 29-year veteran of the Fire Department, resigned earlier this year. He appeared at No. 18 on a list of Clark County’s 50 highest-paid employees in 2008, when his pay totaled $230,166. He will continue to receive a six-figure annual pension while in prison.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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