55°F
weather icon Clear

DA Wolfson faces challenger after campaign theft scandal

Updated March 16, 2018 - 9:26 pm

Longtime defense lawyer Robert Langford filed papers Friday to run against Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, a day after a Review-Journal investigation revealed that Wolfson did not press charges in the theft of nearly $42,000 from his campaign.

Langford, 59, formally declared his candidacy minutes before the close of the campaign filing period.

The Review-Journal reported Thursday that Audrie Locke, a close Wolfson aide, stole the money to cover a gambling addiction, but Wolfson allowed her to pay back the money and avoid being prosecuted.

Locke, 45, the district attorney’s community liaison and spokeswoman, admitted in an interview with the newspaper that she took the campaign’s checkbook without Wolfson’s knowledge and wrote a series of checks to herself in 2014.

Langford, who worked as an assistant district attorney from 1990 to 1997, said he received a flood of calls Friday urging him to run against Wolfson after the campaign theft was reported in the Review-Journal.

“It is a response to an outcry from many people in the community from both political parties saying the district attorney’s office needs a change,” Langford said.

Wolfson could not be reached late Friday for comment.

Locke blamed the theft on money troubles tied to her video poker addiction and fragile emotional state at the time over the deaths of several people close to her, including her mother.

“I have a gambling problem … So there’s a lot of money issues that come with that, and that’s what happened,” Locke said earlier this week. “The gambling spiraled. And if you talk to anybody who’s ever had a gambling problem, the first challenge that they have is recovering financially.”

Wolfson’s decision to not pursue potential felony criminal charges against Locke has raised concerns about whether she received favorable treatment because of her close personal relationship with the district attorney.

At the time of the theft, Locke was on Wolfson’s campaign payroll performing a variety of duties, including helping to maintain the campaign’s books and filing contribution and expense reports with the state. She also was earning about $80,000 a year in her high-profile job at the district attorney’s office.

Wolfson said in an interview this week that Locke has been a “trusted employee” for 14 years dating to his days as a Las Vegas councilman, and he still trusts her.

“She’s been the best employee I’ve ever had in 37 years, times 10,” he said. “If I could have a hundred Audries, I would love to have a hundred Audries.”

Wolfson defended his decision not to report the campaign theft to Las Vegas police, saying he was using his “discretion” as the victim to decline to pursue criminal charges.

“I believe that this is an aberration,” he said. “I believe she had an illness, and I believe that it’s the illness that caused her to do this … I decided to give her a second chance to prove to me that she would get treatment for her addiction.”

Locke repaid the $42,000 with the help of her family within two weeks after Wolfson discovered the theft in early August 2014, Locke and Wolfson said.

She also resigned from the office amid the hushed-up scandal on Aug. 25, 2014, and entered an intensive, six-week gambling addiction program before being hired back two months later.

Wolfson kept the reason for Locke’s sudden departure quiet, telling other staff members that her resignation was for health reasons, current and former employees of the district attorney’s office said.

The theft only became public after the Review-Journal obtained a personal email exchange between Wolfson and Locke on Aug. 5, 2014, discussing the theft.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST