Former Senator pleads guilty to federal charges

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KOLO) A week ago, Kelvin Atkinson was in the Nevada State Senate, serving as its majority leader. Monday he was in Las Vegas federal court, facing charges related to misusing campaign funds over an eight-year period.

His announcement a week ago that he was resigning came as a surprise. His appearance Monday was not.

NV Senate Majority Leader facing charges, resigns

"Regrettably, it's been discovered I have been using campaign funds for personal use," he told the chamber. "Thus I will be taking full responsibility for that and I will be pleading guilty when the time comes."

And in court, Atkinson did just that, pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud as part of a plea agreement.

A week ago as he resigned, few details were known. Investigators now say he misused campaign funds from 2010 through 2017.

The exact amount is apparently unknown, but it's at least $250,000.

The US Attorney's office says $75,000 was used to open his downtown Las Vegas nightclub, where he sometimes hosted political fundraisers. $100,000 was used to pay off credit cards. Other cash went to lease a Jaguar SUV and pay off a personal loan.

"What happened in court is a stark reminder that there are public officials, a small minority of them, that lose their way," said US Attorney Nicholas Trutanich.

Trutanich says the investigation was launched a couple years ago and led to a search warrant in January 2019. At that time Atkinson, who was just then assuming the majority leadership, had his attorney begin negotiations for a plea agreement.

The wire fraud count is related to his hiring a consultant to set up a PayPal account to pay for his nightclub.

"When a candidate diverts campaign money from its intended purposes to line his own pockets, a donor's confidence in our democratic process is undermined," Trutanich said. "Worse yet, the democratic process is harmed."

Neither Atkinson nor his attorney had any comment.

He ran unopposed in his North Las Vegas district in 2016.

Atkinson will be sentenced in July. He's expected to receive a sentence of nearly three years.

His seat in the Senate is at the moment empty. The Clark County Commission will name his replacement.