Friday, Sept. 25, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- Cops knew of counseling service (9-19-2009)
- District judge who endorsed counseling service could face investigation, expert says (9-19-2009)
- Cops raid firm accused of extortion (9-16-2009)
- Familiar face in awkward place in court (9-15-2009)
It turns out that Steven Brox not only told Metro Police and at least one judge about his plan to route people detained at casinos on suspicion of petty crimes into private counseling, but also talked to top gaming regulators about it.
Jerry Markling, chief of enforcement at the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said Thursday he recalls Brox explaining his moneymaking idea during a meeting with Markling and some of his deputies about two years ago.
Markling said he didn’t tell Brox he approved or disapproved of the program that suddenly became controversial this month, but Markling said he did voice concerns about whether regulators would be able to track the people participating in the program for future background investigations should any of them apply for a gaming license.
Brox’s attorney, Robert Draskovich, said Brox supplied the regulators with a special code to gain Internet access to his records, but Markling said the board had no such code. And Markling said he never heard anything more about the diversion program until a few months ago, when casino security chiefs told him it was in operation.
Police are now investigating allegations that the program run by Brox and his company, United States Justice Associates, a counseling service that has been doing business in Las Vegas Justice Court for a decade, amounted to extortion of the people who were diverted from the justice system. Police had received a complaint about the program last week from a security chief at Planet Hollywood.
The company’s Web site had been taken down as of Thursday.
After detectives raided Brox’s company last week, they interviewed District Judge Doug Smith about his ties to the program. As a justice of the peace, Smith had written letters of endorsement for the company and had arranged for Brox to pitch the program to both Sheriff Doug Gillespie and former Sheriff Bill Young. Smith has declined to comment.
Markling said he recalled that Brox had mentioned Smith’s name during his presentation to the regulators. The pitch was that the program would help unclog the courts, Markling noted.
A police spokesman starred briefly in a marketing video the company produced until Gillespie instructed his department not to participate in the program.
There are now some rumblings within Metro that detectives moved too swiftly against United States Justice Associates last week without knowing the full extent of the department’s past dealings with the company.
The attorney general’s office will get to test the value of Christopher Edwards’ testimony in Las Vegas Justice Court on Tuesday.
Edwards, the former Las Vegas field director for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, is the star witness in a preliminary hearing that will determine whether the criminal fraud case against the anti-poverty group and its former regional director will move forward to trial in District Court.
Edwards, 33, last month pleaded guilty and agreed to testify about a scheme that prosecutors alleged encouraged the collection of fraudulent voter registration forms during the 2008 campaign season.
The hearing will take place in the courtroom of Justice of the Peace Bill Jansen.
Now that “Girls Gone Wild” producer Joe Francis has pleaded guilty in his federal tax case in Los Angeles, he’s free to resolve his criminal gambling debt case here.
“At this point, we can begin in earnest the negotiations in our case,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski, who runs the bad check unit.
Zadrowski filed a two-count criminal complaint against Francis a year ago, alleging he failed to pay $2 million in gambling debts at Wynn Las Vegas.
Last month District Judge Michelle Leavitt sided with Wynn Las Vegas in its suit against Francis and ordered him to pay the Strip resort the $2 million plus interest and court fees.
Any deal Zadrowski reaches with Francis to drop the criminal charges will have to include another $220,075 Francis owes the bad check unit in state-mandated processing fees.