94°F
weather icon Clear

FBI questions witnesses in Michele Fiore campaign finance probe

Updated July 13, 2021 - 8:25 am

FBI agents have been questioning witnesses in an investigation into campaign finances of City Councilwoman Michele Fiore, the Review-Journal has learned.

Among those interviewed was City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, a former close ally, who had a falling-out with Fiore last summer.

Agents questioned Seaman openly at City Hall on July 6 — a day when all City Council members were being briefed by staff on the issues coming before the next day’s council meeting, informed sources said. The agents showed up unannounced and flashed their badges.

“I can confirm that they were at City Hall and that they interviewed me about Fiore,” Seaman said Monday. She declined further comment.

Sources said agents are investigating Fiore’s campaign finances, but their focus is unclear.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment Monday. “As a matter of policy, the FBI can’t confirm or deny investigations,” the spokeswoman said.

Fiore, the Nevada GOP national committeewoman, did not respond to requests for comment. In that role, Fiore is responsible for the party’s fundraising in the state.

The FBI investigation dates back to at least January, when agents executed a search warrant at her 6205 Red Pine Court home in northwest Las Vegas, sources said.

A neighbor who declined to be identified said at the time that agents wearing FBI emblazoned jackets showed up about 6 a.m. in an armored truck and several SUVs. Agents walked out of the home a couple of hours later with a box of papers. At one point Fiore also walked out of the home carrying paperwork, the neighbor said.

Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald could not be reached for comment.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman declined to comment, saying, “I don’t know anything.”

The Review-Journal reported in March 2019 that Fiore had not been shy about spending campaign and political action committee funds on goods and services that push the limits of the state’s campaign finance law.

Fiore, who was elected to the council in June 2017, had spent nearly $200,000 on gasoline, Uber rides, travel, restaurant and grocery store tabs, furniture and her own businesses, records showed at the time.

She denied any wrongdoing in a written statement, explaining that the money went toward unprecedented community outreach and other official duties. She said her Future for Nevadans PAC primarily pays for “constituent services.”

During that period, Fiore spent political funds on meals totaling more than $16,000 at one local Italian restaurant, filled up her gas tank at a cost of $4,000 and took about $2,500 in Uber rides, records showed.

She also bought more than $6,000 in furniture, which she said went to her City Hall office. She spent an additional $21,000 at grocery stores and big-box chains like Costco and Walmart, records showed.

And Fiore poured about $140,000 in campaign and PAC money into her consulting firm, Politically Off The Wall, and an additional $10,000 into her political magazine, Truth in Politics, from February 2017 to May 2018.

The PAC reported it made a payment of $8,000 in February 2020 to A Bright Present Foundation, a nonprofit of which Fiore serves as president and director, state records show.

A Bright Present Foundation was formed in 2019 “to raise funds for the Las Vegas Community to provide goods and/or services as needed,” according to its articles of incorporation. Fiore’s daughter, Sheena Siegel, had been listed as the nonprofit’s secretary.

Since 2018, the PAC has given nearly $150,000 to Siegel’s event planning company, Hamlet Events, for special events and advertising, campaign finance and state business records show. The company has received more than twice as much from the PAC as political campaigns and committees have over the same period.

Fiore faced an ultimately failed recall effort last year over her general representation of Ward 6, but in part because of her support for converting a historic hay barn at Floyd Lamb Park into an event center. Critics suggested that the conversion would benefit Fiore’s daughter.

The Review-Journal also disclosed in 2019 that Fiore had failed to report at least $91,000 in tax liens the IRS filed against her and rental income from a house in Colorado on her Nevada Financial Disclosure Statements.

Fiore declined to discuss the omissions at the time but wrote in an email that all of her disclosures were accurate and that she had no tax debt, trusts or property that she was required to report.

In her first seven months as a board member of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in 2018, Fiore traveled around the world at the agency’s expense, despite a policy reform aimed at limiting board member travel to one trip a year, records obtained by the newspaper showed at the time.

She spent about $33,000 in taxpayer funds, accounting for nearly half of all board travel between 2016 and 2019, raising questions about whether she violated the intent of the policy, records showed.

To help fund some of the trips, Fiore also used campaign contributions, drawing concerns about whether the spending potentially violated campaign laws that prohibit the use of donations for personal expenses. She denied wrongdoing.

Earlier this year, Fiore amended years of campaign and PAC financial disclosures, saying that she lent nearly $60,000 to the two accounts since 2017. The councilwoman did not return messages at the time seeking to understand why the disclosures were delayed.

Last June, Fiore gave up the title of mayor pro tem after coming under fire for “racially charged” remarks she was said to have made at the Clark County Republican Party convention.

She told reporters that her decision to step away from her appointed position had nothing to do with the controversy over her comments opposing affirmative action.

Fiore said at the time that she wanted to focus on the country’s presidential race, which falls under her job as the state GOP’s national committeewoman.

The councilwoman, whose term expires in November 2022, has hinted at running for mayor in 2024 but has not made any formal announcements.

Two days after the January attack on the U.S. Capitol, Fiore attended the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Florida, wearing a vest that showed support of former President Donald Trump, according to a New York Times report.

She told the newspaper, “I surely embrace President Trump.”

After Joe Biden was inaugurated as the country’s 46th president, Fiore continued to express support for Trump.

“History will remember President Trump as our greatest, as one of our greatest presidents,” she said.

As a Nevada assemblywoman in early 2016, Fiore traveled to Oregon, where protesters had holed up at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, saying she wanted to work with federal agents in an effort to defuse a standoff. But she also told the Review-Journal at the time that she wanted to confront overreach from the federal government.

Fiore grabbed national headlines in late 2015 when she posted a picture of her family holding firearms and dressed in matching red shirts and blue jeans on social media.

“It’s up to Americans to protect America,” she wrote on Facebook. “We’re just your ordinary American family. — With love &liberty, Michele.”

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. German is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team. Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @JGermanRJ, @randompoker and @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST