Monday, March 16, 2009 | 3:53 p.m.
Nye County brothel owner Joe Richards pleaded guilty today to fraud charges for paying bribes to a former Nye County commissioner, said Greg Brower, U.S. Attorney for Nevada.
Richards, 75, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones to one count of wire fraud and honest services fraud. Richards admitted that he devised a scheme to defraud the citizens of Nye County of honest services of their elected public officials in exchange for obtaining favors that benefited him personally.
In June and August 2005, Richards paid former Nye County Commissioner Candice Trummell a total of $5,000 in order to corruptly influence her to revise a Nye County ordinance that restricted him from building a brothel on property he owned that was located in Pahrump, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
Richards did not know that Trummel was also a cooperating witness for the U.S. government, Brower said. The ordinance, referred to as the 300-yard rule, prevented building a legal brothel within 300 yards of a frontage to a road or highway.
While brothels are not legal in Clark and Washoe counties, brothels are allowed to operate in other Nevada counties.
Richards used the artifice of the Richards Family Trust to conceal payments to Trummell and also provided Trummell with a "Memorandum of Scholarship," which falsely stated that he had paid her the money for a law school scholarship, when the funds were paid in order to corruptly influence her, the charges said.
Richards owns three of seven brothels authorized to operate in Nye County: Mabel's Ranch, Cherry Patch Ranch, Cherry Patch II Ranch, as well as a massage parlor known at the Madame Butterfly Bath and Massage Salon, and a strip club known as The Kingdom.
Richards is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Jones at 1:30 p.m. on June 15.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by first assistant U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre and assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Frayn and Michael Chu.