NEVADA – Feds fighting to keep Las Vegas HOA fraud files secret

Las Vegas Review-Journal:  Feds fighting to keep Las Vegas HOA fraud files secret
June 29, 2015
By Jeff German

Las Vegas – Federal prosecutors are fighting to keep secret the mass of evidence in the long-running investigation into the scheme to take over and defraud homeowners associations.

Lawyers with the Justice Department’s Fraud Section in Washington filed court papers late last week opposing the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s request to dissolve two protective orders that withhold documents in the high-profile case from the public.

Attorney Maggie McLetchie, representing the newspaper, argued in court filings June 9 that the public has a right to see the evidence, most of which has long ago been turned over to defense lawyers. With most of the 42 convicted defendants sentenced, the epic case is essentially over.

Former construction company boss Leon Benzer orchestrated the scheme, which occurred between 2003 and 2009, to gain control of a dozen HOAs through rigged elections. The goal was to get the boards to sued contractors and then funnel multimillion-dollar contracts to do construction-defect repairs to his company.

Benzer pleaded guilty in January, avoiding a trial that would have forced the government to make public much of the evidence in the wide-ranging scheme, which included prominent attorneys, police officers and others. He is to be sentenced Aug. 6.

U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr., who signed the protective orders, has set an Aug. 5 hearing to decide whether to recommend granting the Review-Journal’s request.

Prosecutors do not oppose the release of some three-dozen sealed documents filed in the case but don’t want to make public some six million pages of documents they had turned over to defense lawyers.

McLetchie said Monday that she’s pleased the government supports unsealing the handful of documents filed with the court.

But she added, “This case raises important questions of public policy. The public wants to know what the underlying facts are, and the government shouldn’t be able to cloak every single document in the case in secrecy.”  Read more:

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