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Press Release

Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Pleads Guilty To Misusing $250,000 Of Donor Money For Personal Expenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Nevada

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Nevada State Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who resigned his position last week, pleaded guilty in federal court to a wire fraud scheme involving the misuse of at least $249,000 of donor money on personal expenses. Those expenses included operating a Las Vegas night club, payments to personal credit cards, and leasing a luxury car.

United States Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada, Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI Las Vegas Office, and Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan for the IRS Criminal Investigation made the announcement.

“In the Silver State, the vast majority of public officials serve with integrity. They serve others, not their own self-interests,” said United States Attorney Trutanich. “Public service is a public trust. And when federal law enforcement learn of potential violations of that trust, justice requires us to do our level best to conduct a fair and dispassionate inquiry into the facts.”

“Rooting out corruption is exceptionally difficult, but it is a top criminal priority for the FBI,” said Special Agent in Charge Rouse. “Public corruption erodes public confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively investigate elected officials who choose to exploit the public’s trust for their personal gain.”

“Public corruption erodes the trust and confidence the public has for our elected officials,” said Special Agent in Charge Sullivan. “IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to investigate individuals who violate that trust.”

Before his resignation, Atkinson, 49, represented District 4. He was elected to Nevada State Senate in November 2012, having previously served in the Nevada State Assembly since November 2002. He was named the Senate’s Majority Leader in November 2018. 

Atkinson admitted that, from at least January 2010 to about December 2017, he devised a scheme to mislead donors contributing to his campaign by falsely representing to them that he would use donations for lawful campaign purposes. But in reality, Atkinson misused contributions in his campaign account for personal expenses and not for legitimate campaign purposes.

According to the plea agreement and today’s court proceedings, the manner in which Atkinson withdrew the money, how he spent the money, where he spent it, the age of certain transactions, and his failure to keep adequate records, make Atkinson’s precise fraud amount presently indiscernible. In total, however, Atkinson admitted that he spent nearly $250,000 of unreported withdraws on personal expenses and not for legitimate campaign purposes. Atkinson’s personal spending of campaign funds included $100,000 in payments to his personal credit cards, $75,000 towards opening and operating a Las Vegas night club, and $20,000 on leasing a Jaguar Sports Utility Vehicle, among many other personal expenditures. 

Atkinson remains out of custody pending sentencing, which is scheduled for July 11, 2019. The statutory maximum term of imprisonment for wire fraud is 20 years. He has agreed to pay $249,900 in restitution.

The case was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Daniel R. Schiess is prosecuting the case.


Updated March 11, 2019

Financial Fraud
Public Corruption