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Judge denies prosecutor’s request for bail in airport theft case

District Judge Jessie Walsh on Monday denied a prosecutor’s request to set bail for three former McCarran International Airport technicians charged with theft.

Walsh also set a Feb. 27 trial date for Matthew Charniga, 39; Joseph Cordova, 35; and Chad Norton, 34.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher had filed court papers arguing bail was necessary because investigators suspected the three defendants were behind a mysterious website that surfaced briefly in April to intimidate witnesses in the felony case.

The website — itshoprats.com — contained personal information, including Social Security numbers and photographs, of the witnesses and leveled racial slurs and false allegations of wrongdoing against them, Staudaher wrote.

Staudaher wanted bail set at $22,000 for Charniga and $19,000 each for Cordova and Norton.

But after defense lawyers argued that all three men had strong community ties and were not behind the website, Walsh decided to allow them to remain free on their own recognizance.

Walsh agreed to revisit the bail issue if prosecutors uncover evidence directly linking the defendants to the short-lived website.

Airport officials had hired a law firm to send out cease-and-desist letters threatening legal action to get the website taken down.

The three technicians were arrested in February and later indicted on charges of conspiracy, burglary and theft.

Airport officials reported they bought high-tech universal remotes and other electronic equipment for themselves using airport purchase orders.

Charniga, a felon who pleaded guilty in 1994 to voluntary manslaughter in a shooting death, also faces a felony weapons possession charge.

The value of the equipment the defendants are charged with stealing is about $2,800, but investigators suspect the thefts might have occurred for several years.

Investigators also discovered evidence of tampering with a surveillance camera watching over the building on the county-run airport’s grounds where the technicians worked.

All three defendants were part of McCarran’s Information Systems Division, which has about 80 employees who provide technical help to airport departments.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

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