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Court papers show legislative extortion probe includes alleged wiretap, false political finance reports

Las Vegas police investigating an alleged Nevada Assembly extortion scheme are looking for evidence that Republican political consultant Tony Dane conducted illegal wiretapping and filed false public documents with the state during the scheme.

The new allegations surfaced this week in a search warrant police obtained to cover computers, digital equipment, cell phones and an automated dialing (robo-calling) system they seized from the conservative activist in Virginia and Utah.

Detectives with the Criminal Intelligence Section of the Metropolitan Police Department disclosed in previous warrants that they were investigating extortion and bribery allegations in the scheme targeting Las Vegas Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards.

Dane — who has denied wrongdoing and attacked police conduct in the investigation — is regarded as the central figure in the scheme.

Police said last week they do not plan to recommend charges against any state lawmakers in the investigation, which began in December after Edwards reported that he was subjected to pressure to change his vote for Assembly speaker. Republicans installed Las Vegas Assemblyman John Hambrick as speaker in February, following a contentious caucus fight.

In the latest search warrant, filed Monday in District Court, Detective William Schoen said police are looking for evidence showing Dane filed false contribution and expense reports for his CRC Political Action Committee with the Nevada secretary of state’s office as part of the extortion scheme.

State records show Dane reported raising $245,000 last year for CRC PAC. All of the contributions to the PAC, which has a Las Vegas address, were listed as coming from either Dane or his company, Dane & Associates.

Questions about the funding prompted Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske to conduct her own investigation into the PAC, which Dane set up to assist efforts to recall some moderate GOP legislators. Dane has been involved recently in a recall campaign against Edwards, who was elected last November.

Clark County Republicans filed a complaint with Cegavske asking her to investigate whether Dane was illegally funneling conduit contributions to the CRC PAC to aid the recall efforts.

Cegavske’s spokeswoman Catherine Lu said Wednesday the secretary of state has sought the assistance of the attorney general in the investigation. Citing the pending investigation, Lu declined further comment.

In pursuing wiretapping allegations, police want to examine stored “Internet browser and application data” from Dane’s automated calling equipment in Utah that was “used to capture Edwards’ telephone conversations, ”according to the warrant.

That suggests the robo-calling system was set up to record conversations, possibly in violation of state law. In Nevada, both parties must consent to a recorded telephone conversation.

Dane’s system in the past allowed the recipients of the call to either press a button to express an opinion or to be transferred to another number, presumably the targeted candidate or elected official.

Edwards and at least one other Republican assemblyman singled out by Dane have received calls forwarded by the robo-calling equipment.

The search warrant said detectives also seek “audio files” of Edwards “engaged in telephone conversations with others.”

Detectives also want the contacts and call history from cell phones between Dane and others “regarding the bribery and extortion of Edwards and the funding of CRC PAC,” the warrant stated.

And police are attempting to trace the flow of money through financial and banking transactions involving Dane, his companies Dane & Associates and Automated Calling, his wife, Melissa, and the CRC PAC, according to the warrant.

Lately, Dane’s CRC PAC has criticized Las Vegas police and Schoen, the investigation’s lead detective.

The PAC’s website claims police have shown a “total disregard for the rights of citizens” and need to be held accountable. The site alleges Dane and others tied to the investigation are being persecuted for speaking out against unnecessary tax increases, and solicits contributions.

“Your donation will help pay legal costs for those who’s rights have been violated,” the site says.

On Wednesday, Dane’s lawyer David Otto said the latest allegations are part of the effort to “silence” Dane.

Otto said he didn’t believe Dane filed any false documents with the secretary of state.

“He’s not required to report any donations, even though he did, unless there is an election in progress,” Otto said. “At the time of his reports, there was no election in progress.”

Otto has filed court papers seeking the return of the property seized from Dane. He also wants a federal judge to unseal sworn affidavits police submitted before searches in Virginia and Utah.

Schoen’s affidavit submitted in the latest search warrant request was sealed by Chief District Judge David Barker, who approved the warrant.

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

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