Former Democratic assemblyman indicted for campaign fund theft, falsifying documents

Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Criminal JusticeLegislature

A grand jury indicted former Assemblyman Alexander Assefa (D-Las Vegas) on 14 charges Thursday, finding probable cause that Assefa stole tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign account and lied about his residency on candidacy forms.

The charges were first filed by the attorney general’s office last March and two months after Assefa — an Ethiopian-born immigrant who had been elected to his second term only a few months prior — resigned from the Legislature, citing a “mistaken” understanding of residency requirements for holding legislative office. The most serious charges carry a possible penalty of up to 20 years of imprisonment.

Following the indictment, Assefa is set to be arraigned in Clark County District Court on April 14.

“Mr. Assefa’s actions ran directly against the conduct that we both expect and demand of those in public office,” Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, said in a statement to The Nevada Independent. “Nobody is above the law, and my office will prosecute this case fairly and hold Mr. Assefa accountable.”

A police investigation into Assefa’s crimes began only days before he won re-election to Assembly District 42. In October 2020, police executed a search warrant seeking campaign and personal banking records from Assefa and sought documents related to his primary residence, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Though Assefa had submitted a declaration of candidacy stating he lived in a condominium in the Spring Valley-area district, police sought records and personal belongings showing that he actually lived in a North Las Vegas residence with his wife. 

The full list of charges include 12 felony counts and two gross misdemeanor counts:

  • Two counts of filing a false declaration of candidacy form in regards to residency (gross misdemeanor)
  • Five category C felony counts of offering a “false instrument for filing or record,” which includes a false voter registration made in 2017, a change of address form filed in 2020, and three campaign and expenditure reports that falsely reported the amount of contributions received by his election campaign between 2018 and 2020 
  • Three category D felony counts of a “false statement made in declaration under penalty of perjury,” each related to alleged falsified information on his campaign finance reports
  • Three category B felony counts of theft of more than $3,500, each related to misappropriation of campaign funds between 2018 and 2020
  • One category C felony count of theft between $650 and $3,500, related to misappropriation of campaign funds in late 2019

During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers updated the penalty thresholds for crimes of theft, but because Assefa committed the crimes before implementation of the change, he was charged under the previous law. Under that statute, any charge of theft above $3,500 is punishable by a Category B felony and one to 10 years in prison.

An attorney representing Assefa could not immediately be reached Thursday afternoon for comment.

In his resignation letter, Assefa said he ran to represent the district “out of a sincere belief” that it was his primary place of residence, but afterward determined that he was mistaken.

“With great regret, and because I believe that lawmakers are bound to uphold the law and act with honesty and integrity, I must admit my mistake and resign my office,” he wrote.

Assefa was elected to represent Assembly District 42 in 2018, and won re-election in 2020 before resigning from office. He was replaced by now-Assemblywoman Tracy Brown-May (D-Las Vegas).

Read the indictment here:

Assefa Indictment by Sean Golonka on Scribd


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