NEVADA – Benzer pleads guilty in massive Las Vegas Valley HOA scheme
Former construction company boss Leon Benzer pleaded guilty Friday in the massive scheme to take over and defraud homeowners associations in the Las Vegas area.
Benzer, 48, who prosecutors say was the mastermind of the corruption scheme, entered guilty pleas to a total of 19 conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion counts in two separate federal indictments.
In his hastily prepared plea agreement with prosecutors, which came together in recent days, Benzer provides a lengthy explanation of his leadership role in the multimillion-dollar scheme.
But his agreement does not call for him to testify against the remaining defendants charged in the HOA conspiracy, which prosecutors allege occurred at 11 HOAs across the valley between 2003 and 2009.
U.S. District Judge James Mahan set an Aug. 3 sentencing date for Benzer, who is free on his own recognizance.
Prosecutors are recommending a reduction in prison time for Benzer because of his acceptance of responsibility for his crimes, but Justice Department lawyer Charles La Bella said there is no agreement on how much time behind bars Benzer should serve. That will be left to Mahan and his assessment of the federal sentencing guidelines in Benzer’s case.
Defendants to stand trial on Feb. 23 include attorney Keith Gregory, Benzer’s half-sister Edith Gillespie and bail bondsman Charles McChesney. A sixth defendant, Stephanie Markham, is being tried separately on charges of lying about her role in the scheme to the FBI and to a federal grand jury.
Benzer, who once owned Silver Lining Construction Company, and 10 others were indicted in the scheme in January 2013. He was indicted again several months later on charges of evading $1.2 million in personal and company taxes. The charges relate to more than $7 million Benzer and his company obtained through a fraudulent contract with the Vistana condominium development to do construction defect work. Read more: