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Ralenkotter court hearing in criminal case delayed for months

Updated May 1, 2020 - 11:30 am

A preliminary hearing in the criminal case against retired Las Vegas tourism boss Rossi Ralenkotter and three others has been delayed nearly four more months.

Justice of the Peace Harmony Letizia put off the hearing from May 14 until Sept. 8, a year after Ralenkotter, two other top Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority executives and a Southwest Airlines official were charged.

Ralenkotter and the three other defendants — former LVCVA Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Tull, former Business Partnerships Director Brig Lawson and former Southwest Airlines executive Eric Woodson — are facing felony charges in the alleged theft of Southwest gift cards bought by the tax-funded agency.

The hearing, originally set for March 26, is to determine whether the four defendants, who are free on their own recognizance, will stand trial in District Court.

Letizia also reset a hearing sought by Ralenkotter to stop prosecutors from introducing “privileged” information from the mass of records police obtained from the LVCVA during the investigation. That hearing is now scheduled for Aug. 4.

The investigation was prompted by Review-Journal stories disclosing audit results that showed widespread misuse of the gift cards. The audit was ordered amid a Review-Journal investigation that revealed wasteful spending and poor oversight at the convention authority.

Between 2012 and 2017, the LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest gift cards, records show.

A criminal complaint alleges that Ralenkotter used roughly $16,000 in Southwest cards on personal travel and that Tull bought airline tickets for herself and family members with $6,000 in gift cards. Both executives reimbursed the LVCVA and left the agency before they were charged.

Lawson bought the gift cards for the convention authority and instructed Southwest employees to hide the purchases in promotional invoices, police allege. Lawson then distributed the cards within the convention authority.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates the Sands Expo & Convention Center, which competes with the LVCVA-operated Las Vegas Convention Center.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. German is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Support our journalism.

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