Financial tricks, but no motive, revealed in final Vegas shooting report

2018-08-05-vegas

Ten months after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history killed 58 people and injured more than 800 others, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) has closed its case on Stephen Paddock, the alleged lone gunman, despite failing to answer key questions about the Oct. 1, 2017 incident.

Though certainly difficult to accept for numerous reasons, it may not surprise close observers of the shooting’s aftermath that the 187-page final report from the LVMPD does not provide any motive for the carnage. Several news outlets also ran stories on the report with headlines noting that authorities found evidence of “no second shooter” to be involved in the attack on last year’s Route 91 Harvest festival.

“I get it — we all want answers,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said just days after the shooting, before adding that police had at that time already “looked at everything, literally.”

“I believe we will have an answer,” McMahill said. “But that answer may also end up being ‘we don’t know why he did it.'” After months of investigation, that is essentially the answer the public is being given. Yet other revelations from the final LVMPD report on the shooting provide at least some additional insight into the circumstances of the incident, so many of which seem to raise more questions than can satisfactorily be answered.

In the months since last October’s killing spree in Las Vegas, key pieces of information have slowly trickled out. In March, for example, more than five months after the shooting, the New York Times published video obtained exclusively from MGM Resorts, owner of the Mandalay Bay hotel where Paddock was staying, showing him bringing numerous bags of luggage, presumably containing dozens of firearms, up to his room.

Yet the final LVMPD report, while providing no motive or evidence of a second shooter, offers at least one bombshell, in the form of testimony from Stephen Paddock’s brother, Eric Paddock.

Following the shooting, Eric “was upset with Paddock until he learned Paddock had removed the hard drives of the computers found in the hotel room,” according to the report. “Eric was upset because Paddock completed the taxes for the family and had cheated on them. Eric was afraid the hard drives would implicate him and his mother for tax evasion.”

After finishing college, Stephen Paddock took a job at the Internal Revenue Service. “Eric Paddock believed his brother only took that job so he could learn how to hide income and later used his knowledge to help the family cheat on their taxes,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. “Paddock went on to work for several aerospace companies and the Defense Contract Audit Agency before cashing in on real estate investments he made with his mother and Eric, the one brother he did remain in contact with.”

It’s worth noting that at least two of the “several aerospace companies” where Paddock once worked, Lockheed Martin predecessor Morton-Thiokol and McDonnell Douglas, which later merged with Boeing, were both also major defense contractors. It’s also interesting that the final LVMPD report notes that Paddock “obtained his pilot’s license and at one point owned an airplane.” This is slightly at odds with earlier reports that Paddock owned two small, single-engine airplanes, at least one of which amateur investigators shortly after the shooting were attempting to connect to the CIA.

The discrepancies in reports of Paddock’s ownership of planes is particularly interesting given other reports that emerged early on (and corroborated by the final LVMPD report) that during his shooting spree he took time to turn away from the concert crowd and use incendiary rounds to target airport fuel tanks in close proximity to the so-called JANET terminal, a secretive area of McCarran International Airport that services the commuter planes that travel daily between Las Vegas and Area 51.

“Insiders call it the ‘CIA’s airline,’ but, informally, it’s known as ‘JANET’ because its pilots use that identifier over air traffic control frequencies,” an unnamed source told Radar Online, which first reported the potential connection to the Route 91 Harvest massacre. “The joke is that the acronym stands for Just Another Non-Existent Terminal.” The real meaning of the acronym, however, may be “Joint Air Network for Employee Transportation.”

Planes, non-existent or otherwise, aside, however, Eric Paddock’s admission that his brother Stephen not only helped Eric and his mother cheat on their taxes, but that Stephen took a job with the IRS decades ago specifically “in order to learn how to hide income” is a rather important revelation.

Questions arose early on as to whether Stephen Paddock earned more than $5 million gambling in 2015, or instead lost hundreds of thousands on his video poker habit. As I noted last October, laundering money in Las Vegas may not be as easy as it once was, but there’s no doubt that it still goes on.

Nevertheless mainstream media outlets including the New York Times, L.A. Times, and the New Yorker all ran stories in October 2017 detailing the plausibility of Paddock’s high-stakes gambling habits while largely supporting the narrative that there was little about his finances that defied explanation, though the latter publication did cite a Yahoo News report indicating that more than 200 of Paddock’s casino transactions had been flagged for review by the U.S. government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN.

Thanks to his brother Eric, we now know that questions raised early on regarding Stephen Paddock’s finances were legitimate, and that he did in fact use his knowledge of accounting practices and government bureaucracy to launder money or “hide income” over what looks to be a substantial period of time. Whether the reported millions of dollars in income Paddock needed to hide during the 30 years between his last known full-time employment and his death in 2017 really came from “real estate investments,” however, remains –like his motive– more of an open question, despite the LVMPD’s closing of the case.

 

 

 

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