Former Clark County Family Court Judge Steven Jones Sentenced to More Than Two Years in Prison for Investment Fraud Scheme
LAS VEGAS, NV—Former Clark County Family Court Judge Steven E. Jones was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jennifer A. Dorsey to 26 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay approximately $2.9 million in restitution for participating in an investment fraud that bilked over 50 investor victims out of millions in cash for almost a decade, announced U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada and Laura Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Nevada.
Jones, 57, of Henderson, Nev., who served for almost 20 years as a family court judge in Clark County, pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was permitted to self-surrender to federal prison by May 25, 2015. Jones’ sentence was enhanced for violating his position of trust, and because the loss amount was over $200,000 and there were more than 10 victims. Jones resigned his position as judge and surrendered his Nevada law license in September as one of the conditions of his plea agreement.
“Former Judge Steven Jones played an integral part in this investment fraud scheme and was the most prominent and indispensable member,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “This crime was not a “one-off” for Jones, but a calculated and deliberate decision that he replicated for years. He knew right from wrong, but engaged in the conduct anyway because he could.”
“This sentencing reaffirms to the public that the FBI will continue to make certain that no one is above the law, and when public corruption is identified, it will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted,” said Special Agent in Charge Bucheit.
All of the co-conspirators charged in the fraud scheme have also pleaded guilty. Thomas A. Cecrle, Jr., 57, of Henderson, Nev., and Constance C. Fenton, 70, of Gig Harbor, Wash., are scheduled to be sentenced on March 2. Terry J. Wolfe, 59, of Henderson, was sentenced on Feb. 19, to time served, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay approximately $2.9 million in restitution. Mark L. Hansen, 56, of Corvallis, Ore., was sentenced on Jan. 27, 2015, to four months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay approximately $2.9 million in restitution. Ashlee M. Martin, 31, of Las Vegas, Nev., entered into a 12-month pretrial diversion agreement with the government.
According to the plea memoranda, defendants lured victims into a fraud scheme by falsely telling them that Cecrle worked as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, purchasing and selling water rights worth millions of dollars as part of a secret government program. The co-conspirators then solicited money by falsely claiming that Cecrle needed short-term cash loans to complete his phantom water deals, loans he promised to repay in short order along with a very large return. Cecrle and his co-conspirators concocted a similar story involving a land deal on the Las Vegas Strip where Cecrle needed short-term loans to supposedly close a deal with Sir Richard Branson. In truth, however, Cecrle held no position with the federal government and there were no land or water rights deals.
Using his office as an elected state court judge, defendant Jones knowingly vouched for Cecrle and the legitimacy of the deals to potential investors when he knew the deals were, in fact, scams. According to the plea memorandum, Jones continued to further the conspiracy by receiving money from a victim in the parking lot of the Family Division Courthouse, meeting with at least one potential investor in his chambers and elsewhere in the courthouse to discuss the investment, obtaining an “Own Recognizance” bond to release Cecrle from custody after he was arrested for bad checks he had passed to a victim, and opening and maintaining a joint checking account with Cecrle, through which flowed over $260,000 in illegal proceeds. During the entire conspiracy, which lasted from about September 2002 to October 2012, the defendants defrauded at least 22 victims of more than $2.6 million, money they quickly converted to their own use.
The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel R. Schiess of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.
This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.com.