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Tax charges dropped against ex-commissioner’s family

A federal judge has granted a request from prosecutors to dismiss the tax charges filed last year against the son and daughter-in-law of former Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates.

Brian Atkinson-Turner and his wife, Kathryn O’Gara, were indicted in March 2008 on charges of filing a false tax return and failing to file corporate tax returns.

Records show that the couple appeared April 15 before U.S. District Judge Robert Jones to plead guilty to one count of filing a false tax return, but the judge refused to accept the pleas. At the hearing, Jones questioned the decision to bring the matter as a criminal case rather than as a civil proceeding.

“The court noted that the case involved neither a large scheme nor illegal source income and expressed the opinion that the government should therefore not have pursued criminal charges against these defendants,” prosecutors wrote in a motion requesting the dismissal.

An order dismissing the criminal case was filed Tuesday, a week before the case was scheduled to go to trial. According to the indictment, the couple used money from their company, Ad Vibe, to cover personal car and home mortgage payments, and they were paid roughly $169,000 from Atkinson Gates’ 2004 campaign fund. But their 2004 personal income tax returns listed only $12,523 in income, according to the indictment.

The indictment also accused the couple of failing to file corporate tax returns for Ad Vibe for two years, even though the company had earned at least $310,000 during those years.

Plea agreements for the couple listed tax loss amounts of about $52,000 for Atkinson-Turner and about $27,000 for O’Gara. The couple’s lawyers could not be reached for comment today.

“To be clear, notwithstanding this motion, the government believes this tax prosecution was justified and appropriate,” prosecutors wrote in the document requesting the dismissal.

The document went on to argue that civil remedies “generally are not an adequate alternative for deliberate and significant tax fraud.”

“The prospect of a criminal conviction and incarceration are necessary to deter tax crime and punish tax criminals in order to preserve the integrity of the nation’s self-assessment tax system,” prosecutors wrote.

In pursuing the criminal case against Atkinson-Turner and O’Gara, prosecutors “relied on the federal judiciary’s oft-repeated admonition that courts must be cautious to not insert themselves in the government’s charging decisions.”

“Accordingly, after the court refused to accept the plea agreements, the government planned on proceeding to trial,” prosecutors wrote.

However, prosecutors learned in May that a key witness in the case had been indicted in Tennessee on charges related to a large-scale bank fraud conspiracy.

Because of the indictment of the key witness, prosecutors now believe “that the interests of justice will be best served” by the dismissal of the indictment against Atkinson-Turner and O’Gara, according to the prosecution motion. The tax charges were not the first criminal charges the couple had faced.

In August 2007, Las Vegas police arrested Atkinson-Turner and O’Gara after a search of their Southern Highlands home turned up a stash of marijuana, feces on walls and a refrigerator containing nothing but yogurt.

Police responded to the house after two people reported seeing a black Mercedes sedan driving erratically in the area. The witnesses, who also told police they saw a toddler unbuckled in the car, followed the sedan to the couple’s home and called police.

Officers also found loaded handguns on the car’s floorboard and under the bed in the master bedroom, according to a police report.

Atkinson-Turner and O’Gara later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of child neglect. District Judge Donald Mosley sentenced each of them in September 2008 to two years of probation. The couple, who had moved to San Diego by that time, had taken parenting classes and undergone routine drug tests before their sentencing hearing.

Atkinson Gates coasted to a landslide victory in 2004 and a fourth term on the county commission. She resigned from the board in January 2007, saying she wanted to spend more time with family and pursue education and business opportunities.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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