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Joe Richards and Nevada’s Three Ring Prostitution Circus

from -Joe Richards [pictured] has been busy making a circus chimp of our justice system again.

Nevadans who would like to think our legal process is more than a punch line found themselves shrugging after learning of the further adventures of Pahrump’s wayward brothel baron.

Richards pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court 14 months ago to bribing a Nye County Commissioner. (Although such relationships between pimps and politicians are in keeping with a long-standing Silver State tradition, it turns out it’s against the law.)

Richards’ attempt to expand his whorehouse empire was interrupted by Nye County ordinance, which forbade their presence on the south end of Pahrump.

He eventually was indicted in 2006 on two felony wire fraud counts after he paid square Nye County Commissioner Candace Trummell $5,000 to “help” rewrite the county rule book.

Instead, Trummell contacted the FBI. She wore a body recorder, and her conversations with Richards were taped.

With such solid evidence of an attempt to bribe a public official, you’d think Richards would have been an odds-on favorite for a vacation at taxpayer expense.

Richards was a certified sleaze merchant, but he was wise enough to hire attorney Richard Wright, who helped carve out a deal that not only kept the brothel owner out of prison but also allowed him more than ample time to sell off his lucrative businesses.

Instead of the Big House, he caught a year at a Las Vegas halfway house with a pass that enabled him to travel to Pahrump to pursue his varied business interests.

If you’re wondering whether that amounts to anything approaching actual punishment for attempting to corrupt an elected official, then you’re starting to get the picture.

Richards is now about to sell two of his brothels to Northern Nevada whorehouse owner Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch. And, as a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal pointed out, Richards has yet to be disciplined by the Nye County Commission.

Although some Pahrump residents are sure to be mortified by Richards’ waltz with the justice system, they can take heart in the fact they are not alone.

For decades other Nevada communities that have embraced, or at least tolerated, legalized prostitution have found themselves similarly red-faced.

In 2008, Old Bridge Ranch brothel owner and Hells Angels officer David Burgess was convicted of felony child pornography charges after he was found in possession of two computer hard drives jammed with explicit images.

In a departure from the usual footsie and wrist-slapping that surrounds most Nevada brothel owners who run afoul of the law, Burgess was slammed with a 15-year prison sentence and a decade of supervised release.
Richards got off easy, but he’d have to work overtime to create the kind of featherbed enjoyed by legendary Storey County brothel king Joe Conforte of Mustang Ranch infamy.

For many years, Conforte was the consummate Nevada political insider, a man who catered to the proclivities of a generation of elected officials and funneled back-door cash into election campaigns.

While Conforte had problems with tenacious Washoe County District Attorney William Raggio, he seemed to have most of the rest of the state’s politicians on a yo-yo string.

When federal law enforcement finally caught up to Conforte, and had him nailed for evading millions in income taxes, he began to talk. And talk. And talk.

When he finished talking, U.S. District Judge Harry Claiborne – who as a defense attorney had represented Conforte – was indicted on federal charges.

Conforte’s allegations didn’t result in conviction, but Claiborne was eventually convicted on tax charges, sent to prison, and impeached.
Conforte, meanwhile, slipped out of the country and moved to Brazil.

No halfway house for him.

Compared to that other Joe, Pahrump ringmaster Richards has it tough.


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