Judge orders evidence to be kept confidential in Las Vegas water district fraud case

Seeking to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation, federal prosecutors have obtained a protective order to keep evidence confidential in the fraud case against a former Las Vegas Valley Water District employee.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman issued the order last week after prosecutors argued in court papers that public dissemination could lead to the “destruction of evidence” and the “harassment or endangerment of witnesses in the case.”

Jennifer McCain-Bray, 41, a former water district purchasing analyst, was indicted by a federal grand jury last month in a scheme to steal and sell more than $6.7 million worth of ink and toner cartridges from the public utility. She pleaded not guilty to six mail fraud charges and was released on her own recognizance.

Her defense lawyer, Louis Palazzo, did not oppose the protective order, and Hoffman made his decision without a hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Burns said in court papers that the government would move to dissolve the order after it completes the investigation and decides whether to “bring any new indictments.”

Only people associated with the prosecutors and those working with Palazzo on the defense can see the government’s evidence, the order states.

According to the indictment, McCain-Bray spent $4.5 million of public funds between 2012 and 2015 on ink and toner cartridges she then sold to a buyer in New Jersey for a cut of the money.

The millions of dollars in purchases were made by McCain-Bray and “others unknown to the grand jury” dating to 2007, the indictment alleges.

Many of the cartridges were fraudulently bought and sold through the water district purchasing department and shipped in boxes to an apparently fake New Jersey company called Symm Distributors Inc., authorities have alleged.

The water district has said that the purchasing manager, an accounting supervisor and a finance analyst were in the process of being fired when they left the public agency earlier this year.

Their names have not been released, but district officials said they have found no evidence indicating the three — or any other current or former district employees — were involved in the scheme.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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