I-Team: Whatever happened to...?

High-profile cases still unresolved

LAS VEGAS - Whatever happened to the three guys who were caught on video as they vandalized Devils Hole, home of the endangered pupfish?

And likewise, what became of the water district employee accused of buying and embezzling millions of dollars worth of printer cartidges? And the former boss at UMC accused of giving contracts to his friends?

The I-Team has an update on those high-profile cases.

The Devil's Hole pupfish are tiny, blue, and beautiful and happen to be among the most endangered species on the planet.

The only place where they survive -- barely -- is their namesake water hole in Death Valley National Park.

April 2016 -- three men on ATV's used shotguns to blast the locks off the gates that protect the fragile spot, then went on a drunken rampage, destroying equipment and cameras, and worst of all, one of the boozers stripped off his clothes and plowed into the water, the very place where the pupfish feed and breed. The swimmer left his underwear behind, along with a trail of vomit.

Within days, the three men were identified. One from Pahrump, one from North Las Vegas, and one from Indian Springs. Nye County officials wanted to prosecute, calling the case a slam dunk because the of video evidence and DNA. But the county deferred to federal authorities who indicated the men had committed several felonies, including trespassing, destruction of property, an ex-felon with a gun, and the death of at least one pupfish. But, since then, there have been no charges filed, no prosecution, no punishment. The U.S. Attorneys Office says it can't confirm there is even an active investigation.

In another case high-profile case.

It's been 10 years since Metro detectives served a search warrant on the office of Lacy Thomas, administrator at UMC Hospital. The I-Team was present when the public integrity team carried out boxes of records and computers.

Thomas had been hired to fix UMC's troubled financial picture but he oversaw a deeper plunge into the red. County auditors first noticed unusual contracts given by Thomas to people and companies who turned out to be his friends and cronies from Chicago, some of whom did little or no work for the piles of money they were paid.

The hospital boss also took steps to hide UMC's blossoming debt from elected officials. Thomas was fired on the same day police raided his office. Police estimate the questionable contracts cost the public $10 million. Thomas was accused of 10 counts of theft and misconduct by a public official but his first trial in 2010 ended in a mistrial.

Since then many trees have died from all the legal briefs filed. The case was tossed out by a judge, reinstated by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2013, sent back for a new trial, and is now before the supreme court again. Lawyers for Thomas accuse the state of withholding evidence and argue that another trial would amount to double jeopardy. The DA's office is committed following through on the prosecution of Thomas.

Another public corruption case. This one federal. 

In February 2016, a  search warrant was served at the Bureau of Reclamation office in Boulder City. That's the agency that  manages the Hoover Dam, another at LL Bradford Accounting, a Las Vegas firm which landed a million dollar contract to audit the dam, and a third at the Henderson home of Rick Leavitt, an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Neighbors called him "Slick Rick" because he displayed flashes of new- found wealth. Authorities would only say that the FBI's public integrity team was  investigating,  along with the IRS and Department of Interior. No charges have been filed.

And then there is the embezzlement case at Las Vegas Valley Water District.

Jennifer McCain Bray,  also known as JJ was a trusted purchasing agent at the Las Vegas Valley Water District, but she's now accused of operating a brazen embezzlement scheme over a period of several years. Records obtained by the I-Team show McCain used hundreds of other employee accounts to bypass internal controls as she spent huge sums on printer ink and cartridges.

Most of the purchases were made online from Staples. The materials were shipped to McCain's office, then reshipped to a shell company at an address in New Jersey. A man identified as Mukul Rastogi lived there. Records show McCain was spending as much as $40,000 per week on printer ink, a total of $6.7 million over five years. 

McCain's family bought a new house and expensive toys. After the scheme was noticed in December 2015, McCain resigned and believed that was the end of it. After I-Team reports aired, she was arrested. Mukul Rastogi, the alleged co-conspirator was never charged, slipped away and is now believed to be living in Pakistan. McCain's jury trial is slated for early December.

The water district has instituted new internal controls and oversight to make sure something like that could not happen again.

 


 


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