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Audit finds signs of human trafficking at brothels in Nevada county

At least 34 percent of Lyon County’s legal sex workers showed signs of human trafficking, according to a four-month audit of the region’s brothels.

The audit, which examined 342 work cards issued last year to 241 sex workers, also identified a decades-long history of failures in code enforcement by the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office.

“At a minimum, 83 prostitutes generated positive indicators of human trafficking that should have required additional investigation,” the internal audit report said.

The Sheriff’s Office investigated Moonlite BunnyRanch, Sagebrush Ranch, Kit Kat Guest Ranch and The Love Ranch — all owned by state Assembly candidate Dennis Hof, who was found dead Tuesday morning at age 72 inside his Southern Nevada brothel, Love Ranch Vegas.

“The audit was focused on the ordinances, not on Dennis,” Michael Carlson, administration director of the Sheriff’s Office, said Friday. “It just so happened that he owned all of them. This is not an issue with Dennis, but about making the ordinances work.”

The final eight-page report, which was prepared by Lyon County Sheriff Al McNeil and Carlson, was presented Thursday at a County Commission meeting.

In order to identify signs of sex trafficking inside the county’s brothels, Carlson said in a phone interview Friday, the Sheriff’s Office “subscribed to standards” set by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, which were used during the analysis of all 2017 word card applications.

The analysis pointed to at least six different human trafficking indicators, showing that some sex workers could still be controlled by a pimp, according to the report.

At least 19 sex workers had prior prostitution convictions and four had active prostitution cases at the time of their applications, the report said. One worker also self-disclosed an out-of-state human trafficking arrest.

Other human trafficking indicators observed in the audit included documentation showing workers applying for prostitution work cards “almost immediately” after entering the U.S., as well as documentation of an out-of-state marriage “upon entry into the U.S.”

The audit also showed noncompliance in work card requirements. Of the 134 non-sex workers employed by the four brothels, only 79 of them had valid work cards, the report said.

The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for conducting regular compliance checks, but the audit showed that “this function has not been accomplished in decades,” the report said.

“We did not write the ordinances, but it is our job to enforce them,” Carlson said Friday. “We took a hard look at ourselves. Obviously we have not been doing a good job.”

Changes that McNeil would like to see in his office include thorough background checks during the application process paired with a deputy devoted to screening those background checks, as well as department education and training on sex trafficking, the report shows.

On Friday, Carlson acknowledged the timing of the audit report’s release, which comes about a month ahead of the Nov. 6 vote on Question 1, which could ban brothels in Lyon County.

“You cannot ignore crime just because of where it falls in the timeline of an election period,” he said. “We did not want to go down that road. The cards need to fall where the cards fall.”

Requests for comment from two BunnyRanch sex workers were not returned.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

LCSO Internal Audit Report Brothels by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

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