NEVADA – HOA fraud trial kicks off this week
In the wake of a high-profile investigation that began more than seven years ago, the suicides of three key targets and the guilty pleas of 37 co-conspirators, the long-awaited trial in the unlawful scheme to take over valley homeowners associations is set to get underway this week.
The HOA investigation, spearheaded by the Justice Department’s fraud section in Washington, is regarded as the largest public corruption case federal authorities have brought in Southern Nevada.
But most of the work is done in the massive case, as Justice Department attorneys this week zero in on four remaining defendants — a lawyer, a ballet teacher, a real estate agent and an ailing 87-year-old ex-HOA board member.
To some, the trial is seen as anticlimactic after last month’s guilty plea of former construction company boss Leon Benzer, who prosecutors say was the mastermind behind the multimillion-dollar scheme to corrupt, take over and defraud 11 HOAs from 2003 to 2009. Straw buyers were recruited, and elections were rigged to get them on the HOA boards so Benzer could obtain lucrative construction defect contracts.
Benzer’s plea agreement with the government does not require his cooperation, but he is on the list of 67 prosecution witnesses who could be called to testify during the trial, which is expected to last three to five weeks in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge James Mahan.
For Bruce Wallace, who prosecutors says was one of the honest HOA board members during the takeover at Vistana, the trial has been a long time coming. Read more: