From bitcoin sex to a Cliven Bundy app: Stories you might have missed in 2014

Ever wondered what it would feel like to be presumed dead for an entire day? Rob Ponte sure does.
Illustration: Danny Hellman

He’s not dead!

January 6: Zappos employee Rob Ponte arrives home Monday evening to find his Downtown apartment covered in coroner’s tape—and that he’s been assumed dead most of the day. Police thought Ponte was the dead body they’d found near Towne Terrace apartments that morning. According to Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy, the mix-up came after the apartment manager thought the dead body looked like Ponte, even showing officers a copy of his driver’s license. It could have been cleared up quickly, but no one could reach anyone: Officers tried to call Ponte’s cell phone, but he was in a meeting and missed the call (and his voicemail wasn’t working anyway); and Ponte got a Zappos email asking him to contact detectives, but the call he made went straight to voicemail. Can we suggest something to both the public and the police if this ever happens again? Text! (“Rob. This is Metro. You alive?”)

Calgary or bust

January 15: Canadian and U.S. authorities break up a multi-million-dollar drug ring—all because of a single traffic stop just north of Las Vegas two years ago. Austin Hill, 32, was stopped for speeding on I-15 in 2012, and as the officer was about to let him go with a warning, he asked if Hill had any drugs in his pickup truck. When Hill replied, “No and f*ck no!” a K-9 unit was called in, and Hill was busted for having 63 vacuum-sealed bundles of cocaine, along with $12,500 in cash. DEA agents eventually discovered Hill’s cocaine shipment was headed to Calgary, leading to the 2014 arrests of Christopher Scher, 33, Michael Janecek, 37, and Steven Doporto, 31, on drug-trafficking charges.

Undercover congressman

February 21: U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford spends the day working “undercover” for UPS, delivering packages to surprised employees of Centennial Hills Medical Plaza and Centennial Hills Hospital. In addition to helping him connect with his constituents and get a different perspective on working in Las Vegas, Horsford dons the brown UPS uniform as part of his argument for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10—UPS pays its drivers an average $32.50 an hour. Even entry-level workers make $11 to $12 an hour.

Can’t we all just get along?

March 5: The Nevada Supreme Court issues an order that Nevada attorneys have to swear to be “civil” to each other and to judges. That means the attorney’s oath, administered when new attorneys are admitted to the bar, now contains this passage: “I will conduct myself in a civil and professional manner, whether dealing with clients, opposing parties and counsel, judicial officers or the general public, and will promote the administration of justice.” The Board of Governors of the State Bar of Nevada requested the amended oath. The sad part is, now they’re sworn to be too civil to tell us the ugly backstory.

Helping water take a selfie

March 21: Nevada’s Desert Research Institute partners with Google (along with the universities of Idaho and Nebraska) to map real-time drought across the United States, as well as water consumption worldwide—part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Data Initiative. Intended as a guide for future planning, the initiative also addresses heat, flooding, climate, food and more. DRI president Stephen G. Wells says the partnership with Google “is exactly the kind of public-private-sector partnership that will foster innovation in the higher-education research community and allow us, as scientists, to create data-driven solutions for businesses, communities, resource managers and policy makers.”

Bee serious ...

April 14: We’ve heard of birds causing problems with airplanes, but … bees? A Las Vegas flight, bound for Duluth, Minnesota, is forced to return to McCarran International Airport after being swarmed. Initially, the pilot thinks a bird got caught in the engine, but an inspection of the plane reveals that bees covering the plane’s windshield were sucked into the engine shortly after takeoff. The plane’s passengers are transferred to another aircraft, causing an hour-and-a-half delay, but no injuries—unless you count the bees.

Ammo and animals

May 9: Ryan Drewrey, a developer with DigiSky Games, releases the app Bundy Ranch Shootout in response to the controversy over the battle between the federal government and Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy. The game, which Drewrey calls “a little sick and twisted,” has you shooting at “evil agents from the Federal Bureau of Cows” who are “trying to steal your cattle!” The app currently has 1,000 downloads and an average player rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

Talk about cyber sex

May 15: Bunniesoflasvegas.com announces it is the first Las Vegas escort service to accept bitcoin—Although the company stresses that it doesn’t accept Google Wallet (or, for some reason, credit cards).

On the jobs

September 3: Bramby Tollen, a Clark County School District employee, is discovered to be claiming medical leave while working another job in another state. According to an investigation by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Tollen went on medical leave from CCSD on May 15 and took another job as a purchasing manager with Snohomish County in Washington on June 13. But she didn’t resign from CCSD until August 29, which means she continued to draw her $106,560 CCSD salary while making a salary of $98,000 in Washington for almost two months—a cost of $23,000 to Clark County taxpayers. According to CCSD officials, the district has recouped all the money owed.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Misfortune

September 19: Sparks police report that a woman is going door to door, purporting to be a fortune teller. According to one victim, the “fortune teller” offered to read her palm, persuaded her to pay several hundred dollars and promised to “triple the money.” Then she never returned. Sparks detectives say the case is ongoing. Note to self: Don’t give hundreds of dollars to randoms who knock on your door, even if they legitimately tell your fortune.

Celebrities are just like us!

They go shopping at Bonanza Gift Shop! On March 25, Angelina Jolie and her children made some purchases there, including the "Swearing Finger," a fake rubber hand that flips the bird and curses. (It wasn’t Jolie’s first time there. In 2011, she went shopping for a birthday gift for husband Brad Pitt—a parrot that curses. What is it with Angelina and profanity?)

Flavor Flav

They set off a lot of fireworks! On July 5, Flavor Flav was slapped with two citations for his annual Fourth of July fireworks show. Apparently the rapper has been setting off thousands of dollars worth of fireworks since 2009.

They perform for royalty! Okay, maybe that last one doesn't apply to you, but it does to Penn & Teller, who performed for Prince Charles on June 23 as part of a celebration of the prince's 40th year as a member of Britain's Magic Circle, an organization founded in 1905 to promote the art of magic. Penn & Teller performed Cups and Balls—the same trick Prince Charles performed to gain membership.

Notable deaths

Jackie Gaughan

December 28: Zack Hale Jr., the voice of the iconic Vegas Vic, at age 87. Vegas Vic ("Howdy, podner!") is the neon cowboy that debuted on the front of the Pioneer Club in 1951.

March 12: Jackie Gaughan, the casino mogul best known for the El Cortez, at age 93.

March 19: Montecore, the tiger that injured Roy Horn during an October 2003 Siegfried & Roy show, at age 17.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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