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Fraud allegations against El Paso City Council candidate surpass $300,000

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A security company and a temporary employment agency say El Paso City Council candidate Shawn Nixon owes them more than $280,000 from bad checks and unpaid invoices from this summer.

Nixon’s campaign has faced repeated claims of bounced checks and wage theft since August. The bounced payments and unpaid invoices involving Express Employment Professionals El Paso and International Protective Service of Albuquerque dwarf other allegations.

“Worst-case scenario, I’m going to need to scramble just to figure out how to get this $170,000 recouped one way or another. And then at a minimum, try to get this man locked up and hopefully he doesn’t do this to another staffing agency,” said Edward Lee Jr., a franchisee for Express Employment Professionals El Paso

Aaron T. Jones, the owner of International Protective Service, said Nixon bounced a $100,000 retainer check to his company for security services and owes an additional $13,000 in unpaid fees.

Vendors and former employees have accused Nixon’s campaign currently of running up more than $300,000 in bad checks and unpaid wages or bills. El Paso City Council candidates rarely spend more than $100,000 on elections.

The El Paso District Attorney’s Office on Monday said law enforcement is investigating complaints against Nixon. 

“The cases have not been presented to the DA’s office but we are aware of the cases and are working with law enforcement in anticipation of receiving the cases for review,” said Claudia Duran, spokesperson for District Attorney Jaime Esparza.

Nixon has not responded to emailed questions from El Paso Matters about the allegations from Lee and Jones. A phone number he used on Friday for an interview with El Paso Matters was no longer working on Monday. In the Friday interview, he blamed campaign staff for improper payments of more than $31,000 identified in eight police reports.

The 21-year-old Nixon is one of five candidates for the District 4 City Council seat, representing Northeast El Paso. He said on Friday that he had raised about $1,200 for his campaign.

Lee said Nixon contacted him in July about providing temporary workers to his campaign, with pay ranging from $10 to $20 an hour for the 38 workers eventually hired for jobs like clerical work and making calls to voters. 

“He reached out to me. And then basically, he gave me the whole sob story, his previous campaign staff walked out on him, this, that and the third,” Lee said.

He said he severed the relationship on Sept. 22 after weeks of seeing the Nixon campaign’s automatic checking payments being returned for insufficient funds.

“He would go online and make these huge dollar amount payments, and then they would come back NSF for insufficient months. He was like, oh, they were using the wrong bank account, let me use this other bank account,” Lee said. “That went on for two months until I was like, enough is enough, damage is done. Either give me a cashier’s check or I’m pulling the plug. Cashier’s check never came. So here we are.”

Lee said he plans to file a complaint with police in the next 24 hours. 

He said Nixon constantly reassured him that he had the money to pay his bills.

“What makes this thing so diabolical, he sent me a picture of a bank statement supposedly from the bank he was banking with, that showed over 200-some thousand dollars in the bank,” Lee said.  

He said Nixon told him he was getting grants of $45,000 a week from the state to fund his campaign. The state of Texas does not provide money to political campaigns.

Jones, the owner of the Albuquerque-based security company, said Nixon called him at the end of July.

“I was in my (Los Angeles) office and he called me and said that he is being threatened by people and that he needed help. And so I put our investigations team together in Albuquerque, sent him an agreement, told him I needed a $100,000 retainer,” Jones said.

“Then he issued us a check for $100 and we’re like, what? And then he issued a check for $100,000. And we deposited that, everything was looking good for a couple of days and then the check bounced,”  he said. 

A team of former law-enforcement officers provided round-the-clock security for Nixon for two weeks.

“You can’t believe the shit we put up with with this guy, these parties that they threw. And he didn’t he didn’t pay the vendors, he didn’t pay the catering. I mean, it was just one big party,” Jones said.

He ended the relationship with Nixon after other warning signs emerged as he waited for the candidate to make good on the bounced check.

“He said that Michelle Obama was coming to town and was backing him. And that’s when we finally pulled the plug on the deal,” Jones said. Nixon told the security company that he had been asked to make hotel arrangements for Obama. Jones has worked with the Secret Service in the past and knew they wouldn’t allow Nixon to make hotel arrangements for someone they’re protecting.

Another alleged Nixon victim, his former campaign finance director, has said the candidate told her the former first lady was coming to El Paso to support him. The former finance director, Lizet Gonzales, quit after a week and said Nixon failed to pay her.

Like Lee, Jones said Nixon told him he was getting weekly grants from the state to run his campaign.

He said the threats that led Nixon to hire his company may have come from people who had received bad checks from the candidate. Nixon filed two police reports this summer saying he had been harassed or assaulted, according to documents obtained by El Paso Matters under the Texas Public Information Act. The suspects he named in the police reports were both people who have alleged that he had paid them with bad checks.

El Paso police have received at least eight complaints since Aug. 13 that Nixon’s campaign was bouncing checks to vendors and failing to pay employees.

Cover photo: City Council candidate Shawn Nixon (Nixon campaign photo)

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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