Ex-Officials Found Guilty in Las Vegas Strip Club Corruption Trial

Two former Las Vegas-area politicians were found guilty Friday of taking bribes from a former strip club owner in a corruption scandal so laced with sex and money that it shocked a town where indulgence is an industry.

Former Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera was found guilty of conspiracy, 10 counts of wire fraud and six of eight charges of extortion under color of official right.

Former Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey was convicted of conspiracy, nine wire fraud charger and three of four extortion charges.

Neither showed any emotion as the verdicts were read in a crowded but hushed U.S. District Court courtroom in Las Vegas. Each faces more than 45 years in prison at sentencing Aug. 21, but will likely face much less under federal sentencing guidelines.

"When I saw the jury come in, and none of them would make eye contact, and some of them looked kind of glum, I turned to Richard and said, 'Uh-oh,"' Kincaid-Chauncey said later, referring to a conversation with her lawyer, Richard Wright.

The 67-year-old grandmother and flower shop owner, who said she puts her faith in God, sat with her hands clasped to her forearms as the verdicts were read. Wright said later they will appeal.

Herrera, a one-time rising political star who addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2000, leaned forward in his chair. His mother, Nancy Herrera, 65, a Cuban immigrant who runs a house cleaning business in Miami, sat behind him in the first row of spectators, bowing her head.

Herrera, Kincaid-Chauncey and two other former commissioners, Lance Malone and Erin Kenny, were indicted in May 2003 on charges they accepted cash and campaign contributions from Michael Galardi, the owner of three southern Nevada strip clubs.

Galardi, who also was indicted, pleaded guilty to bankrolling political corruption in Las Vegas and San Diego, where he also owned a club. He has been promised no more than five years in prison on both cases.

Herrera, 32, took the stand and admitted receiving lap dances at a Galardi club, having an affair with one Galardi employee and receiving oral sex from another.

He declined comment as he walked from the courtroom holding hands with his wife, Emily.

His lawyer, Jerry Bernstein, said they intend to appeal.

"We put on the best defense we could, and the jury didn't buy it," Bernstein said. "It's tough to be a politician on trial in a criminal case in this country right now."

Bernstein tried to convince the jury that Malone, who Galardi hired as a lobbyist but called his "bag man," pocketed the money Galardi intended for Herrera.

Bernstein and Wright argued that testimony from two key government witnesses was "bought" through favorable plea deals, and shouldn't be believed.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said FBI wiretaps showed Galardi bribed at least three members of the seven-member Clark County Commission from 1999 to 2003.

"One thing you can't change is what was said on those tapes," Bogden said. "The jury looked at the evidence and said, 'We're not going to take this anymore."'

Malone was found guilty last July in San Diego of conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion for delivering Galardi cash to San Diego City Council members. He remains free while appealing that conviction and a three-year prison sentence.

He did not testify in the Las Vegas case. His trial is due to begin Aug. 29.

Herrera denied ever receiving cash from Galardi or Malone, but admitted taking a $10,000 campaign contribution when he ran as a Democrat for Congress in 2002.

Kincaid-Chauncey, who was also heard on tapes, acknowledged taking $4,000 as a contribution to help send her grandson to an Olympic ski school, and $5,000 for a son's unsuccessful campaign for North Las Vegas City Council.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated about 16 hours before reaching a decision Friday afternoon.

Left unanswered was whether blockbuster testimony from Galardi that he bribed judges, lawyers, police, the mayor, the district attorney, county manager and a business license official would lead to more indictments.

"It'll be interesting to see if the government believes their 'star' witness enough to initiate some investigations of these outrageous statements," said Charles Kelly, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor who sat through nearly every day of the trial.

"I don't believe them," he said.

Bogden declined to promise more charges, but said the corruption probe was not closed.