NEVADA – Once-secret papers reveal how HOA scheme widened
Inspired by his lucrative takeover of the Vistana homeowners association, then-construction company boss Leon Benzer moved swiftly a decade ago to broaden the scheme across the Las Vegas Valley, according to once-secret government trial papers.
Benzer enlisted the help of high-profile attorney Nancy Quon, who invested $3 million in the push to corrupt other HOAs — all with the goal of obtaining additional construction defect litigation for her firm and contracts for Benzer’s company to do construction repairs.
Quon agreed to share 10 percent of her attorney’s fees with Benzer as she sought to file lawsuits and obtain settlements for the HOAs, according to the trial papers.
The 17-page brief written by Justice Department lawyers describes the key players in the massive scheme and provides a road map to how the conspiracy widened and caught the attention of the FBI and Las Vegas police.
A total of 42 defendants either pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial in what is thought to be the largest public corruption case ever in Southern Nevada.
Earlier this month, Benzer, who pleaded guilty in the scheme, was sentenced to 15½ years in federal prison. Quon was never charged but while under investigation killed herself in March 2012.
Worried that a Review-Journal story might cause prejudicial publicity before the February trial of four defendants, Justice Department lawyers did not publicly file the brief as they normally would. Instead, they gave copies directly to defense lawyers, who were bound by a judicial order not to disclose any evidence as they prepared for trial.
Last week, prosecutors gave the brief to the Review-Journal in the “spirit” of a federal judge’s order sought by the newspaper unsealing some three dozen documents filed in the long-running case. U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. has yet to rule on another Review-Journal request to make public 6 million pages of evidence, including 10,000 pages of investigative reports, that prosecutors turned over to defense lawyers.