Nevada Judge Charged in $3 Million Investment Fraud Scheme

Nevada-based family court judge Steven Jones may wish to consult a marathon of Father Knows Best reruns before his next trial – his own.  This federally indicted member of the justice system ironically appears to have misplaced his own set of family values.

Truly a family affair, the crime allegedly involved Jones and his former brother-in-law, Thomas A. Cecrle Jr. The pair, who once lived in a home owned by Jones, have been indicted in Federal Court for their involvement in what authorities estimate to be a $3 million investment fraud scheme.

Jones and Cecrle have allegedly been operating the investment fraud scheme since 2002, 10 years into Jones’ tenure as family court judge.  Jones, who was elected into family court in 1992, has been simultaneously presiding over court cases while allegedly committing acts of fraud over the past decade.  In fact, Jones allegedly conducted his fraudulent affairs in the very courthouse in which his Honor presided over legal cases.

Jones, who is facing criminal charges including money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and security fraud, allegedly conspired with Cecrle in order to manage and maintain a bogus investment scheme.

It is alleged that Jones and Cecrle convinced investors to loan them money by promising exorbitant rates of interest on money loans.  The U.S. Department of Justice says the defendants told victims a number of fictitious stories about the investments.  The DOJ says Cecrle claimed to have a special relationship with the federal government and access to secret government programs.  He also told people he had special interests in property and water rights in Arizona and Nevada but needed short-term cash loans to secure these interests.  No such rights existed, according to the indictment.

Jones and Cecrle failed to pay back investor loans which, according to authorities, was the duo’s fraudulent plan all along.  Furthermore, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Jones and Cecrle used the money they collected for personal expenses that included gambling.

Allegedly, Jones used his position of authority in order to falsely convince investors of the legitimacy of their investments.  Cecrle, and four co-defendants named in the fraudulent scheme, supposedly referred hesitant, nervous or suspicious investors to Jones, who vouched for the investment program.

On Thursday, November 1, 2012, Jones pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges.  Jones, currently on a leave of absence, may be forced by the state of Nevada to temporarily vacate his role as a family court judge while under indictment.  The trial is scheduled to commence on January 8, 2013.

While Jones was released on his own recognizance, Cecrle — who also pleaded not guilty — is being detained until the trial.  Cecrle, unlike Jones, has a comprehensive record of criminal activity including two drug convictions.

If Jones and Cecrle are found guilty, it may be said that their distinct differences provided the basis of a strong criminal partnership.  The combination of Cecrle’s extensive criminal history and Jones’ position of esteemed authority made for an effective team.

Moral of the Story

Corruption exists and operates at all levels — no single field or position is immune.  In the same way that doctors and pharmaceutical companies may not always have a patient’s best interest at heart, members of the justice system are sometimes motivated by things other than the pursuit of justice.

And while the “father” of a family court may know what’s best for families, he may not always act in other’s best interest.  Jim Anderson (Robert Young) played an amusing patriarch in the 1950s series, Father Knows Best, but there’s nothing funny about the alleged crimes committed by Jones and his brother-in-law.

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Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is a private investigator and founder of Tristar Investigation, California’s premiere detective agency. Bruce is also a media commentator for the investigation industry, featured in the New York Times, CNN, History Channel, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times and many more. You can find him on Google+ LinkedIn and YouTube.