There’s plenty of gold in Nevada, but unfortunately much of the mining is being done on the Internet.
The recent federal indictment in East St. Louis of Las Vegan Michael Edward Dotson might yet be the only return on their "investment" his clients ever see from the suspected gold mine scam artist.
The government seeks $1.4 million in claims Dotson separated from willing suckers who believed the pitch that he had discovered a large deposit of gold and only needed enough investor cash to lease the equipment needed to extract it from the ground.
It turns out all Dotson extracted was the trusting investors’ cash, according to published reports. Dotson faces nine wire fraud charges and a single conspiracy charge.
That $1.4 million figure is deceiving because, authorities say, it’s only the estimated proceeds generated by the scam in the past two years. There’s an indication Dotson has been doing this for at least 13 years.
Many investors never saw the man they sent the money to. They were contacted via the Internet, given regular e-mail updates, and were able to listen in on telephone conference calls. All of it was phony, according to law enforcement.
"I have never personally met him," one of Dotson’s Las Vegas victims told me this week. "These are things that travel through the Internet, through the friend of a friend of a friend."
But after hearing details about the so-called "Dotson Project," the local victim and many like her responded to e-mails seeking quick cash infusions at a sky-high promised rate of return.
Dotson’s contact list would receive messages saying "Michael needs $4,000 today," the victim reported. And, sure enough, someone would fall for the pitch and send the money via Western Union or MoneyGram.
"When I realized the only place the money was going was Las Vegas, I said, ‘Whoops, what’s wrong with this picture?’"
Plenty, according to federal investigators.
The project was supposedly attempting to extract 28 tons of gold, but in recent months people began to suspect its operator was worth his weight in malarkey.
The victim, who chooses to remain anonymous, said she doesn’t expect to ever see her money again. She suspects it’s been spent in a casino.
"There is no money, period," she said.
ENDOSCOPY MESS: Locals who underwent procedures at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada continue to complain that they never received letters encouraging them to get tested for possible exposure to Hepatitis C, B, and HIV.
Despite the efforts of the Southern Nevada Health District, it becomes clearer each day that 100 percent notification of at-risk former patients may not be possible.
RENAISSANCE CHEF: Regulars at Fellini’s Ristorante Italiano know chef Chas. La Forte as a man who not only creates amazing dishes, but plays a wine list like a concert violin. Those who dine there late have been impressed by his singing.
He’s something of a renaissance chef.
Now La Forte has moved in another creative direction, writing the first of several books. "An Appetite for Life" is his first, and it’s not a cookbook. That might be on the way.
True to his zest for living, La Forte is having a book signing that will feature champagne and wine tasting starting at 2 p.m. Sunday at the restaurant at 5555 West Charleston Blvd.
MINT CONDITION: Long before the NASCAR nation made Las Vegas one of its favorite stops, the area was known as a center of off-road racing activity.
No race had a higher profile than the Mint 400, which ran from 1968 to 1988.
Thanks to the Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts, the Mint 400 is returning in style at the end of the month with its start and finish near Primm. The Mint tech inspection, a master mechanic’s excuse for a party, is set for March 27 and 28 on Fremont Street.
It’s sure to be almost as fun as the race and a lot less dusty.
ON THE BOULEVARD: The donations are still coming in, but the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser for childhood cancer Saturday at McMullan’s Irish Pub broke last year’s total of $152,000. No one had a better time than my brave daughter, Amelia, who shaved her dad’s noggin to the delight of the crowd.
Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.