Benzer Pleads Guilty in Massive Las Vegas HOA Scheme
Leon Benzer pleaded guilty Friday January 16, 2015, in a massive scheme to take over and defraud several homeowners association in the Las Vegas area.
Benzer, a former construction company boss and who prosecutors say is the mastermind behind the scheme, entered a total of 19 guilty pleas, which include conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion in two separate federal indictments.
In his plea agreement with prosecutors, Benzer provides an explanation of his role in the multi-million dollar scheme. But his agreement does not include testifying against the remaining defendants charged in the HOA conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that this occurred at 11 HOAs across Las Vegas valley between 2003 and 2009.
Prosecutors are recommending that Benzer’s prison time be reduced because of his acceptance of responsibility for his crimes. However, Justice Department lawyer Charles La Bella said prison time will be left to Mahan and his assessment of the federal sentencing guidelines.
Benzer, who once owned Silver Lining Construction Company, and 10 other people were indicted in the scheme in January 2013. These charges relate to more than $7 million that Benzer and his company obtained through fraudulent contracts with the Vistana condominium development to do construction defect work.
The investigation that led to the indictments is thought to be the largest public corruption case federal authorities have brought to Southern Nevada. In all, 36 defendants have pleaded guilty since August 2011. Most are cooperating and waiting to be sentenced after the trial.
Prosecutors are seeking almost $25 million in restitution for the HOAs and lending institutions that were defrauded in the takeover scheme.
Benzer’s goal was to gain control of the HOA boards and steer construction defect litgation contracts to Quon’s (former construction defect lawyer) law office. Quon, now deceased, was to give Benzer 10% of any defect judgments she won. Benzer would also obtain construction defect repair contracts from the corrupted HOA boards.
According to prosecutors, Benzer, Quon and others are to believed to have funneled more than $8 million through secret bank accounts to help them land the contracts.
In his plea agreement, Benzer admits he had the scheme covered from all angles, including setting up buyers to infiltrate HOA communities and get elected to their boards.
Members that were loyal to Benzer were elected through ballot stuffing, bribery and other tricks. Attorneys on Benzer’s payroll were hired to provide legal advice to the boards and oversee the election rigging, putting the Benzer-friendly community management firms in place.
The conspirators gained control of half of the HOA boards and were working on the others until authorities broke up the scheme in 2008 with raids across the valley.
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