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Laughlin deputies serve court order on Las Vegas gas station

They demanded all of the money in the cash register.

It was $3,516.

They would need to collect on the credit card transactions, too.

A handful of armed deputies from the Laughlin Township constable’s office executed a District Court order Saturday to seize $40,000 in assets from the University Sinclair gas station on Flamingo Road and Maryland Parkway. The station is facing financial troubles, and its owners are waging a public relations campaign against Bank of Nevada by allowing protesters with the Occupy Las Vegas movement to camp on their property at the busy intersection.

The execution of the court order also has caused infighting among Clark County constables about how the job of peace officer should be done, and the district attorney’s office is being asked to clarify things.

Laughlin Township Constable Jordan Ross, whose office now has a Las Vegas bureau, said his department has picked up work serving court papers in Las Vegas Township because of the large workload. Laughlin is about 100 miles south of Las Vegas. This was the first time the department had worked in Las Vegas, Ross said.

"We’re happy to pick up the slack," Ross said. "The Las Vegas Township constable’s office is large and backed up."

Ross’ office gets a cut of the fees and is paid for mileage each time deputies serve papers. It’s 2 percent for the first $3,500 collected, and any sum over that is half a percent. So, Ross’ office made about $275 from serving the gas station.

DRUMMING UP BUSINESS

But Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura was never notified by Ross about his serving papers in the area — a gentlemen’s agreement all constables are supposed to abide by, he said. His office has been fielding calls from media outlets since the court order was executed although his office is not involved.

"They’re causing all of this ruckus," Bonaventura said of Ross and his deputies. "We’re getting the backlash from it. We have nothing to do with this. … They’re looking around at their own townships and saying, ‘Gee, there’s no work around here.’ They’re trying to get more fees and drumming up business in Las Vegas."

Bonaventura has asked the district attorney’s office for an opinion about county constables taking business away in his township. Nevada Revised Statutes reads, "Each constable shall be a peace officer in his or her township."

"They’re supposed to be in their own townships," Bonaventura said. "They’re broke, and they’re trying to make money."

Ross disputed the contention that constables have limited jurisdictions, saying each constable is a recognized peace officer throughout the state. Court papers determine who has power and where the department can execute an order.

"The NRS is a grant of power, not a restriction of power," he said.

One of the deputies executing the order at the Las Vegas gas station was from Goodsprings Township. Constable Gary Rogers said he had no knowledge that anyone from his department was involved in the matter and that he is conducting his own internal investigation.

Ross said the deputy is with the Goodsprings Township constable’s office but was sworn in as a Laughlin Township deputy constable on Veterans Day. The paperwork hasn’t been submitted to the county clerk’s office yet, Ross added. The clerk then will forward the information to the recorder’s office.

SLEEPING ON THE STREET CORNER

More than a dozen protesters with the Occupy Las Vegas movement stayed in tents on the street corner outside the gas station Monday. Owners Katja Crosby and Ali Moghadam asked the occupiers for help in drawing attention to their financially strapped business.

Occupy Las Vegas is a chapter of the national Occupy Wall Street movement protesting corporate greed and influence in politics. The local group has staged several protests in Las Vegas over the last few weeks and plans to continue to do so until a nationwide protest period ends on Nov. 21.

"It’s a little rougher sleeping here," protester Collin Williams said. "There’s been this complaint that Occupy Las Vegas hasn’t accomplished anything. Meanwhile, it’s quite possible that while we’re sitting here we’ll have flushed out a corrupt constable and helped to defer the seizure of assets of a business."

The group is seeking out homeowners facing foreclosure, too, he added. The group intends to occupy foreclosed homes, although it has not indicated when that will happen.

"THERE MUST BE SOME CONFUSION"

Michael Mazur is the attorney representing Bank of Nevada in the court order. Mazur also is a deputy for the Goodsprings Township constable’s office but was not present when the court order was executed.

As for a potential conflict of interest with his legal representation of the bank and his outside duties as a constable deputy, Mazur said there is none.

"There must be some confusion," Mazur said. "This was an entirely different branch. It was sent to Laughlin. We work with all constables in the state. … My office handles the paperwork, and we forward it out. I don’t have active involvement on a constable level with these cases."

Mazur said his clients are just trying to get paid.

"We’re seizing personal property and cash on debts that weren’t paid. They borrowed the $40,000 from my client. They took the money and sold the goods," Mazur said.

Moghadam, the manager of the gas station and Crosby’s husband, said he offered to make $200 monthly payments two years ago. Since then the family has offered to make $420 payments. The bank refused the offer because it would hardly make a dent in the loan’s interest.

"We’re not denying we owe the money," Moghadam said. "We tried to pay, we just want a lower payment. All of our other creditors have worked with us."

But Mazur said that never came up in negotiations and that the defendants refused to return phone calls or attend arbitration meetings and never delivered a settlement proposal.

Crosby said she tried to represent herself at arbitration meetings because she couldn’t afford an attorney but was dismissed by Mazur.

"I’m in shock over the whole thing," Crosby said. "I was struck by everything when they came in. They were big men with guns. I told them I wasn’t doing well. I wasn’t lying when I told them I wasn’t doing well."

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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