Nevada brothel owner steps in to defend legal sex trade

Nevada brothel owner Lance Gilman is also managing partner with Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. Gilman owns the Mustang Ranch brothel in Storey County and has been in the brothel business for nearly two decades. (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

A Storey County Commissioner and the owner of the Mustang Ranch brothel filed a motion in federal court this month to intervene in a lawsuit to end legal prostitution in Nevada.

Lance Gilman, who has been in the brothel business for nearly two decades, is seeking to become another defendant in the suit against the state of Nevada, the state Legislature and Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Gilman is asking to become a defendant because he said he stands to lose tens of millions of dollars he invested in the brothel business — a fate the current defendants do not share. If he is allowed to become a defendant, he could pose a significant, and deep-pocketed, obstacle to the plaintiffs. Gilman oversees the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, which touts itself as the largest industrial park in the world.

Plaintiff Rebekah Charleston, a Texas resident who says she was trafficked by two pimps from 1999 through 2009, alleges in the lawsuit that Nevada violates federal law by allowing brothels to operate in its rural counties. Charleston, who says one of her pimps had her work for a four-to-eight week period at the Dennis Hof-owned Love Ranch North and Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothels in Lyon County, is also asking the court to declare the brothel ordinances of Elko, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Storey and White Pine counties unconstitutional.

Gilman said this month he had to try to insert himself into the lawsuit in order to defend his business interests.

“I had to file as an intervener because once you’re in court you’d better work to protect your position in life,” he said. “And we definitely will do that.”

Gilman argues in his motion that he has a “more narrow” interest in the outcome of Charleston’s lawsuit than the current defendants, namely the loss of his business.

“If you take the entire state and everybody there, the financial damages are significant,” he said, referring to Nevada’s other brothel owners and the working women themselves, who operate as independent contractors within the houses.

Gilman also has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Charleston’s attorney, Jason Guinasso, who helped lead the unsuccessful campaigns last year to ban brothels in Lyon and Nye counties, is opposing Gilman’s request, writing in a motion filed Thursday that brothel owners’ interests are represented by the state.

“What’s at issue is whether the state statutes and related ordinances are constitutional,” Guinasso said Friday. He said there’s no reason to believe the state won’t mount a rigorous defense and that Gilman’s additional arguments will add nothing of substance. “All it’s going to do is distract, delay or intimidate the current plaintiffs,” he said.

Guinasso recently added two more plaintiffs to the case: Angela Delgado-Williams, a Texas resident who claims she was trafficked through a Las Vegas escort service starting in 2006, and Leah Albright-Byrd, also of Texas, who says she was trafficked from Sacramento, Calif. to Reno in 1998.

“Their perspective is important to understand,” Guinasso said, noting that their stories illustrate the ripple effects of legalized prostitution in rural Nevada.

It’s unclear when the court will rule on Gilman’s motion to intervene.

Last week, state Sens. Pat Spearman, D-North Law Vegas, and Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, introduced Senate Bill 413 to ban brothels in Nevada.

Brian Joseph at or. Follow on Twitter.