During the day, she’s a local judge. By night, she was working on her own investigation, she says, to save her daughter.
Instead of staying out of the public eye, Judge Melanie Andress-Tobiasson decided to break her silence and share her story exclusively with the 8 News NOW I-Team.
“I would lose my job over this. I would lose my freedom over this. I would lose my life over this,” said Judge Melanie Tobiasson.
As a mother, Tobiasson has put her job on the line to save her daughter from sex trafficking.
“The only reason I didn’t go public earlier is because I was trying to protect my daughter because no one else was going to.”
She says, in 2015, her teenaged daughter started working at a now closed store in Chinatown. She started looking into it, noticed several red flags, and staked out the place.
She tells the I-Team she believes it was a front for prostitution: A clothing store by day, more like a club by night.
“I spent hours. I mean I would go, I would watch, I would get license plate numbers, I would get makes and models of cars, I would follow people, I would get information about where they would go, where they lived, where they, you know, I never used inappropriate means to get information. I did it all myself,” Tobiasson said.
While she watched the store, she says she tried to learn more about Shane Valentine, a violent felon who was in contact with her daughter.
She eventually recused herself from a case against him in her courtroom because of the personal connection to her child.
“You know even having the discussion with her that if one of these guys were to get her, I would get her back but it would, it might require something other than going to the police because I already knew at that point they weren’t helping me.”
Reporter Vanessa Murphy: “When you say, get her, what does that mean?”
Tobiasson: “I mean make her work as a prostitute for them. Force her into prostitution.”
The judge says she informally reached out to the detectives she knows who investigate prostitution in the vice unit several times even when they came to her to approve search warrants for other cases.
“I mean it’s not wrong to give police officers information. There is nothing inappropriate or wrong about that. I gave it, quite frankly, any time I would do a vice search warrant, I would tell the vice detective about what was going on in hopes that maybe at some point somebody would pay attention and care.”
“In hindsight, do I wish I had handled it differently? Yeah, but the reality is I was trying to provide information without my daughter knowing because if she knew, she wasn’t gonna give me anymore information. I was treading a very fine line of trying to keep my daughter close to me and not letting somebody get her. I was going to them always confidentially. I didn’t want to make a public report,” Tobiasson said.
She describes a lack of action by Metro and says her frustration eventually reached Sheriff Joe Lombardo. She claims they met and she provided the memos to the I-Team, one from a vice lieutenant and the other from a captain addressed to the sheriff listing contacts with the judge, but still Tobiasson says she didn’t get the help she wanted and then she realized possibly why.
As the I-Team has been reporting, former star vice cop Chris Baughman and several detectives who worked with him were being investigated by the FBI.
The allegations — cops working with pimps to take out competition, sleeping with prostitutes, and covering it up.
Tobiasson believes if vice detectives investigated her tips, they’d be investigating criminals they were partnering with. She also points to recent plea deals for pimps handed out by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
“It’s unfortunate because it’s a very small percentage of the people in the DA’s office and at Metro but it makes the whole entire system look corrupt,” she said.
The judge is concerned about her safety.
She claims a detective outed her and her daughter during an interview with a possible witness after she provided confidential information.
She points to a double homicide in Oct. of 2016. Shane Valentine who’s serving time in prison for another violent crime was named a person of interest.
And she believes Valentine and his associates recruit girls like her daughter, children of judges and cops to sell sex.
She tells the I-Team she’s continued connecting with people, but instead of police, she says she turned to prostitutes and pimps for information.
“The problem is I don’t think we’re in danger from the pimps anymore. I’m more afraid of the vice detectives and those who are trying to cover this up. That’s what I’m afraid of now,” Tobiasson said.
The I-Team reached out to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Clark County District Attorney’s Office for a response.
A day after the story aired, Metro Police sent the following response:
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department has long known of Judge Tobiassons allegations. It was implied that crimes committed by Shane Valentine were ignored. This is untrue. Valentine is currently incarcerated based on an investigation conducted by LVMPD which resulted in multiple felony convictions.
LVMPD is cooperating with the FBI in their investigation into former VICE personnel. Based on its’ own concerns LVMPD has made several changes to staff and operations of the VICE section.
The Homeland Security Division is actively investigating associated individuals and allegations.