Why The FBI Is Investigating Metro's Vice Unit
The FBI is investigating some members of the vice unit at Las Vegas Metro Police and the Clark County District Attorney’s Office has removed itself from an appeal involving a convicted pimp already serving a life sentence.
Both of those moves are tied to a former member of the vice unit.
Longtime Las Vegas reporter George Knapphas been reporting on the matter for months. Knapp says two convicted pimps, Ocean Fleming and Raymond Sharpe, had alleged in court that former Metro top cop Chris Baughman had relationships with some of their prostitutes.
Fleming is serving a life sentence; Sharpe is in prison for 13 life sentences.
To add to the questions surrounding the story, Baughman is married to Clark County deputy district attorney Liz Mercer. Mercer prosecuted sex crime cases for the District Attorney’s office, including Fleming and Sharpe.
Knapp started looking into the story after the raid of the Las Vegas home of a well-known record producer and hip-hop artist named Mally Mall in 2014. Knapp noticed that Metro’s vice unit was not part of the raid on the home, even though his outcall entertainment company was part of the investigation.
Then Knapp heard through sources that the FBI was investigating people at the vice unit. That is when he heard Chris Baughman’s name.
“Baughman was a rock star among vice cops,” Knapp said, “They had created a special unit in 2008 to go after high profile pimps”
Baughman and members of the unit were going after people who had made a lot of money in the sex business in Las Vegas but seemed untouchable, Knapp said. As Baughman’s profile grew inside and outside the department, he snagged a three-book deal with a publisher and then left the department in 2013 to be part of a television show.
Knapp explained that the production failed and Baughman tried to get rehired by the department but wasn’t reinstated. Knapp learned that Baughman was running the limousine stand at the now-shuttered Olympic Gardens strip club, which again raised red flags for the longtime reporter.
“Here we have anti-pimp Chris Baughman who is suddenly in that position, working at a strip club. It just seemed odd,” he said.
On top of that, sources told Knapp that while Metro was looking into rehiring Baughman they started to hear about his possible involvement with prostitutes, who Knapp points out are really the victims in these cases.
“I know that the FBI as part of their investigation requested a great deal of information from Metro and that Metro has cooperated from the beginning with it,” he said, “In addition to looking into Baughman, what I’ve learned is that they’re looking at other Metro officers or detectives who were part of the same operation. Not only Baughman’s partners but also an intelligence detective, who ended up working a lot of these pimp cases alongside the vice guys”
Now, all of this has come back up as defense attorneys for Fleming and Sharpe try to get new trials for their clients.
People, including members of the District Attorney’s office, have ridiculed Knapp for reporting the story. A deputy DA went so far as to call the stories on Channel 8 ‘conspiracy theories.’
“I was amused when I read it, and a little bit angry about it, because they know the investigation is real. The FBI had been to the DA’s office and talked to a couple people there,” Knapp said.
Knapp admits the men making the accusations are “bad guys.”
As for deputy DA Liz Mercer, the DA’s office told Knapp that she has been “walled off” from any involvement in the cases after it came to light that she was married to Baughman. And she is not accused of any wrongdoing in this case.
And, to be clear, the allegations that Baughman was sleeping with the prostitutes in these cases have not been proven. Baughman has said he had to have a relationship with these women to make sure they would testify in court.
“Both Fleming and Raymond Sharpe both said it went much further than that,” said Knapp.
If the FBI seeks charges against anyone in the Vice Unit, Knapp said it could mean new trials for Sharpe and Fleming.
“The scenario is this,” Knapp said, “It has been painted this way by defense attorneys: Is at the same time Chris Baughman is investigating these pimps and sleeping with various witnesses – who are not only witnesses, prostitutes but victims in these cases and directing their testimony and having them fall in love with him. He is also in a romantic relationship with the chief prosecutor in those cases.”
Earlier this month, a District Court judge said a special prosecutor will be appointed in the appeal by Ocean Fleming.
“If I had to make a guess, I would say both Fleming and Sharpe are going to get new trials,” Knapp said.
At this point, no other news outlet in Las Vegas has investigated this story, which surprises Knapp.
“Soon this will be a national story because when indictments come down – and it will happen – there will be a national story and then everybody will cover it,” he said.
George Knapp, I-Team reporter, Channel 8