Tea Party Candidate Facing Felony Charges

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A Nevada asphalt contractor who faces a legal challenge to his Tea Party of Nevada candidacy for U.S. Senate was hit Friday with felony theft and bad check charges in Las Vegas that allege he bounced a $5,000 business check last year.

Scott Ashjian is one of a record 22 candidates, including 12 Republicans, running for the seat held by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is seeking a fifth term.

Bernie Zadrowski, head of the Clark County district attorney's office bad check unit, said he would seek an arrest warrant Monday in Las Vegas Justice Court. Ashjian could face up to 14 years in state prison if convicted.

The tea party movement is a disparate coalition of conservative groups angered by federal spending, rising taxes and the growth and reach of government. Other tea party activists have been distancing themselves from Ashjian, and an ad targeting him has been sponsored by the Tea Party Express, one of the most visible factions of the national tea party movement.

In a separate matter, a Carson City District Court judge on Friday set an April 14 hearing on a lawsuit that challenges Ashjian's membership in the Tea Party of Nevada and his place on the ballot. Documents filed with the lawsuit appear to show that Ashjian changed his voter registration on March 2, the day after he filed his declaration of candidacy.

Ashjian said he's being targeted by unnamed people acting on behalf of the Republican Party.

"Clearly these people are afraid that I will siphon votes from their political party and from the Republican Party," he said in a statement in response to the lawsuit.

The criminal charge in Las Vegas stems from a returned check for $5,000 written Dec. 7 to a Las Vegas businessman.

Zadrowski, a former Clark County GOP chairman now running for judge, said party politics had no role in his decision to file criminal bad check charges against Ashjian.

"We're not doing anything different with this case than we do with any other $5,000 bad check that comes through the door," the prosecutor said.

Ashjian, owner of a business called A&A Asphalt, didn't respond Thursday and Friday to e-mail and telephone messages seeking comment on the criminal case or an explanation for what public documents suggest is a pattern of nonpayment of business and personal debts. A felony conviction would bar him from running for office.

Records show Ashjian lost his state contractor's license Wednesday after failing to appear for a disciplinary proceeding stemming from a complaint that he bounced a $981.82 check to a materials supplier last year. Ashjian also does business as Jon Scott Ashjian.

The Nevada State Contractors Board fined Ashjian $1,500 and ordered him to pay almost $1,150 in investigative costs, board spokesman Art Nadler said.

Public documents on file with the Clark County Recorder show Ashjian also faced foreclosure on home loans totaling almost $1 million, owed a $200,000 Internal Revenue Service tax debt and faced city nuisance actions and liens alleging he failed to pay homeowners' dues, a roofer, and his trash collector.