The Associated Press
UPDATE: 2:55 p.m. | Prosecutors have filed federal charges against a Clark County family court judge and five other people, alleging a $3 million, decade-long investment fraud scheme that authorities say the judge worked on from his courthouse chambers.
An indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses elected District Judge Steven E. Jones, 54, and the others of scamming investors by telling them one of the defendants had connections in the federal government and could use their money to secure valuable water and land rights.
An attorney for Jones, who has served as a judge in Clark County for two decades, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the court said Jones is on leave.
The others charged are Thomas A. Cecrle, Jr., 55, and Terry J. Wolfe, 57, of Henderson; Constance C. Fenton, 68, of Gig Harbor, Wash.; Mark L. Hansen, 54, of Corvallis, Ore., and Ashlee M. Martin, 38, of Las Vegas.
The indictment was handed down Oct. 24 but wasn’t unsealed until Cecrle’s arrest. It claims the defendants solicited people by mail, phone and the Internet, and persuaded them to loan them money by telling them Cecrle had privileged access within the federal government that would yield high returns.
Their sales pitch, prosecutors said, painted Cecrle as someone with water rights in northern Arizona, land rights on the Las Vegas Strip, and access to World War I bonds. But they told victims that short-term loans or cash investments were needed to secure the rights, and they returned to victims repeatedly with urgent requests for more money, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Cecrle actually was unemployed and had no special government position. The defendants never paid back their investors, but instead used the money to pay for personal expenses and gambling debts, according to the indictment.
When investors became suspicious about the investments, the defendants referred them to Jones, prosecutors said. Jones used his office to vouch for the scheme even though he knew it was a fraud, according to the charges, and he met with investors in his chambers.
Prosecutors claim Jones also intervened on Cecrle’s behalf to delay or prevent legal action against him.
The charges against the group include two counts of conspiracy, six counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, nine counts of money laundering and two counts of engaging in money transactions in criminally derived property.
Defendants Wolfe and Martin were scheduled to make an initial court appearance Wednesday.