Former state Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson will be sentenced Thursday on federal wire fraud charges for converting a quarter-million dollars in campaign contributions to his personal use.
The North Las Vegas Democrat resigned the majority leader’s post and his Senate seat after the investigation and charges became public. He issued a tearful apology on the floor of the Senate March 5, taking full responsibility for his actions, then appeared in Las Vegas federal district court a few days later to enter a guilty plea.
According to court documents, Atkinson used $75,000 from his campaign account to purchase the Urban Lounge nightclub in downtown Las Vegas, some $20,000 to lease a luxury SUV and more money from the account to pay his bills over the course of almost eight years beginning in 2010. Those expenses included paying off $100,000 in credit card charges.
The issue was brought to the FBI’s attention by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division because of irregularities in Atkinson’s campaign finance reports.
According to the plea agreement, Atkinson withdrew more than $1.2 million from his campaign account between January 2010 and December 2017 while reporting just over $764,000 in campaign expenses. He admitted in that document that he spent at least $249,900 of the withdrawals on personal expenses, not legitimate campaign purposes.
The conduct was charged as wire fraud because Atkinson used interstate wire communications “for the purpose of executing his scheme.”
Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could face up to 33 months in federal prison.
Atkinson was first elected to the Assembly in 2002 and moved to the Senate in 2012.
His resignation resulted in the election of Nicole Cannazzaro, D-Las Vegas, as the first female Senate majority leader in state history.