Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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Indictment: Lots from campaigns, little to IRS

Former commissioner’s son, daughter-in-law charged in tax case

Former Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates’ son was barely old enough to drink when his mother showered at least $356,166 in campaign money on him, his wife and the young couple’s advertising company.

Now the Internal Revenue Service says the young couple filed a false personal income tax return and failed to file two years’ worth of corporate tax returns for their company, Ad Vibe Advertising.

A federal grand jury charged Brian Atkinson-Turner, 25, and Kathryn O’Gara, 26, with three federal tax offenses each in an indictment unsealed Friday. During their arraignment in federal court, they pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they could face up to four years in prison and $350,000 in fines.

The case may help answer lingering questions about what happened to the unusually large campaign payments Atkinson Gates made to the politically inexperienced young couple during her walkover 2004 reelection campaign — payments that drew scrutiny from Metro Police.

The indictment alleges that Atkinson-Turner and O’Gara did not file tax returns for Ad Vibe, which received $310,000 in 2004 and 2005 from political campaigns and nonprofit organizations. Atkinson-Turner and O’Gara also received $79,000 and $90,000, respectively, in campaign funds from “Friends for Yvonne Atkinson Gates,” but reported only $12,523 of income in a joint filing in 2004, the indictment alleges.

The couple used Ad Vibe’s corporate Wells Fargo Bank account to pay for personal expenses, including home mortgage and car payments, the indictment says. Atkinson-Turner drove a black Mercedes-Benz with tinted windows at the time that featured a license plate reading “YNGPRES.”

Atkinson-Turner, O’Gara and Ad Vibe received money from a variety of sources — many linked to Atkinson Gates — throughout 2004 and 2005.

In addition to the money from his mother, Atkinson-Turner’s company received campaign funds from the Nevada State Democratic Party ($10,675), failed North Las Vegas mayoral candidate Andres Ramirez ($22,214), unsuccessful Las Vegas City Council candidate Vicki Quinn ($13,525) and Judge Lee Gates ($2,600), Atkinson Gates’ husband.

Atkinson Gates resigned as a commissioner in March 2007, saying she wanted to spend more time with family and on her business and educational pursuits.

The Sun first reported in April on the money flowing to Atkinson-Turner, his wife and his business from his mother and other sources. That’s about the same time the federal investigation began, said Atkinson-Turner’s attorney, John Lusk.

The Sun also reported that Ad Vibe received $58,000 to register voters in 2004 from a controversial nonprofit organization called Fighting AIDS in Our Community Today (FACT). The group was operated by Michael Chambliss, a longtime political consultant to Atkinson Gates. Chambliss now faces murder charges in the stabbing death of a man in November.

After FACT paid Ad Vibe in 2004, Atkinson Gates voted three times to allocate county grants totaling $408,000 to FACT without disclosing her ties to Chambliss or her son’s ties to FACT.

At least nine federal agents arrested and handcuffed Atkinson-Turner and O’Gara on the steps of the Clark County courthouse after an appearance in an unrelated criminal case, according to their attorney in that case. The couple face drug and child endangerment charges in that case.

Both have been arrested in the past as well, but the charges were dismissed. Atkinson-Turner told the Sun in April that two drug paraphernalia charges in 2003 and 2004 were no big deal.

“I had a pipe on me, what about it?” he said. “I’m partying. What do you expect? I wasn’t even caught with weed. I was caught with a marijuana pipe. In college, that’s like nothing.”

O’Gara also was arrested on an allegation of battery domestic violence in 2003, but Atkinson-Turner said it was a minor dispute in which O’Gara slapped him.

The couple have also owned and operated a business called Exotica Entertainment, an outcall service that provided adult entertainment to hotels and residences. Atkinson-Turner also owned Motion Media, a mobile billboard company whose clients included his mother’s fellow commissioner, Rory Reid.

Those companies were not implicated in the federal tax case.

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