News and Press Releases

Nye County Brothel Owner Sentenced in Public Corruption Case

July 29, 2009

Las Vegas, Nev. – Nye County brothel owner Joe Richards was sentenced today to five years of probation, 12 months in a halfway house, and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine for attempting to pay bribes to a former Nye County Commissioner to benefit his business interests, announced Greg Brower, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

"Today's hearing marks the successful conclusion to an important case that demonstrates the ongoing commitment by my office and the FBI to investigating and prosecuting all forms of public corruption, wherever we find it," said U.S. Attorney Brower. "The people of Nevada expect and deserve honest government, and within the U.S. Department of Justice, we are committed to doing our part to ensure that Nevadans get what they deserve."

Richards, 75, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones. Judge Jones also imposed special conditions of probation, which prohibit Richards from expanding his financial interests in the operation of brothels or other sexually oriented businesses, and require him to report to his probation officer any payments of money or in-kind services to any public official within 30 days of making such payments. Richards must also pay approximately $2,000 per month to the government to cover the costs of the halfway house. Richards pleaded guilty on March 16, 2009, to one count of Wire Fraud/Honest Services Fraud.

Richards devised a scheme to defraud the citizens of Nye County of the honest services of their elected public officials for the purpose of obtaining favors that benefitted 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 which was located at the corner of Homestead Road and Silver Street in Pahrump, Nevada. Richards did not know that Trummell was also serving as a good citizen cooperating witness for the United States Government. The ordinance, referred to as the 300 yard rule, prevented the building of a legal brothel within 300 yards of the frontage to a road or highway. Richards used the artifice of the "Richards Family Trust" to conceal the payments to Trummell, and also provided Trummell a "Memorandum of Scholarship," which falsely stated that he had paid her the money for the purpose of a law school scholarship, when in fact, the money was paid in order to corruptly influence her.

Richards owns three of seven brothels authorized for operation in Nye County, Mabel's Ranch, Cherry Patch Ranch, Cherry Patch II Ranch, as well as a massage parlor known as the Madame Butterfly Bath and Massage Salon, and a strip club known as The Kingdom.

The case was investigated by the FBI and United States Postal Inspection Service, and prosecuted by First Assistant United States Attorney Steven W. Myhre and Assistant United States Attorneys Kimberly Frayn and Michael Chu.

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