Sex industry figure sues over donations to Erotic Heritage Museum

Sex industry operator Harry Mohney is suing a Las Vegas erotic art curator, charging she caused problems with the IRS for him by providing a faulty appraisal of adult material he donated to the local Erotic Heritage Museum.

An attorney for Mohney filed suit this week in Clark County District Court against Laura Henkel, who last year was fired from her job as assistant curator of the museum.

Mohney, best known for founding the Déjà Vu and Little Darlings strip clubs and adult bookstores around the country, has been called the “Howard Hughes” of the porn industry.

In his lawsuit, Mohney said that at one point he owned the world’s largest collection of vintage 16mm porn films with titles like “Tales of an Oriental Sex Kitten” and “Wild Girls.”

The suit says Mohney, a Las Vegas resident, beginning in the 1990s had donated material from his porn collection to the Exodus Trust, which owns the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS) in San Francisco and in 2008 opened the 17,000-square-foot Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas next to one of Mohney’s Déjà Vu clubs.

In anticipation of donating more material to the Exodus Trust for use in the Las Vegas museum, Henkel was hired to appraise the material at the suggestion of the IASHS, of which she was a graduate, the suit says.

Henkel, in lobbying to appraise the material for a fee, also stated she was accredited by the American Society of Appraisers, the suit says.

The suit says Henkel represented that she was qualified to praise the material but charges that “these representations were false.”

After Mohney claimed charitable deductions on his income tax forms based on the appraisals, the IRS disallowed most of the deductions, the suit says.

That’s because of problems with the appraisals, including some of the material being grossly overvalued and false information in the appraisals that Mohney owned copyrights and distribution rights to the films, the lawsuit said.

One appraisal in 2005 was for “mint condition” 16mm films and loops, flyers and press kits and came in at $5.92 million, the suit says.

Another appraisal the same year was for $5.872 million covering loops, trailers, short films and feature films, the suit says.

Additional appraisals were conducted in 2006 for undisclosed amounts.

The suit charges Henkel failed to disclose she was paid $28,892 in 2005 and $64,255 in 2006 by the Exodus Trust and that this alleged conflict of interest wasn’t disclosed to Mohney.

IRS regulations require independent appraisals and prohibit appraisals conducted by groups receiving gifts, the suit says.

The suit alleges malpractice, breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation and demands unspecified damages.

Henkel on Friday said the lawsuit is related to a dispute with Mohney over her termination from the Erotic Heritage Museum, a dispute in which she has been threatening to sue him.

“The allegations made by Mr. Mohney are completely false, and were made in retribution for my pending lawsuit against him for his previous defamatory comments. This just continues the pattern of behavior by Mr. Mohney to attempt to smear my good name, and I look forward to complete vindication in the courts,” said Henkel, who now runs a Las Vegas business called Sin City Gallery.

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