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Anti-fraud group honors slain RJ reporter Jeff German, Post’s Lizzie Johnson

“For Vigilance in Fraud Reporting,” reads the inscription on the Guardian Award.

The annual award by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners this year honors slain Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German and Washington Post staff writer Lizzie Johnson.

Given each year to a journalist “whose determination, perseverance and commitment to truth has contributed significantly to the fight against fraud,” the honor will be presented at the association’s annual convention at the Aria in Las Vegas on June 25.

The honor is shared by German, posthumously, and Johnson because their two newspapers agreed to work together after German’s death to finish a story that German had been looking into.

The story, about an alleged Ponzi scheme that targeted Mormons, was reported and written by Johnson, an award-winning reporter and author of the book “Paradise,” which documents the devastation of a California town by wildfire.

Published in both the Review-Journal and Washington Post in early 2023, the story describes the rise and fall of the alleged Ponzi scheme, which saw that more than 900 people invested an estimated $500 million between 2017 and 2022. The story, which featured photos by the Review-Journal’s Rachel Aston, also probed the scam’s impact on some of its victims.

“Both Jeff and Lizzie, in their shared commitment to the truth and passion for change-making journalism, make them among the most deserving recipients of this award,” John Duffley, the association’s communications director, said in an email.

“Once Jeff started digging into the details of this case, we knew it was one of the most important stories in Southern Nevada,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “It was a staggering fraud, and we needed to let our readers know how it happened, both to hold the suspects and the justice system accountable and to help prevent this type of crime from happening again.”

German, 69, an old-school newspaper reporter who spent a four-decade-long career exposing corruption and crime, was found stabbed to death outside his house in September 2022.

A former county elected official, Robert Telles, whom German had written stories about the toxic work environment that Telles presided over when he was the county’s public administrator, was arrested. He has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.

After German’s killing, the Washington Post reached out to the Review-Journal with an offer to help finish any stories that German had been working on. The collaboration between the two newspapers was also recognized by the National Press Club, which named German and Johnson the recipients of the President’s Award in 2023.

“After Jeff’s murder, it was apparent that we wouldn’t be able to complete his investigation in a timely fashion,” Cook said. “Everyone at the Review-Journal was incredibly grateful to Lizzie and her editors at The Washington Post for their gracious offer to help finish Jeff’s work. The result was a story that was as powerful as we could have hoped for.”

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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