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NV Contractor Gets 15 Years for Fraud

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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A former construction company owner will spend more than 15 years in prison for his role in a massive $58 million scheme to gain control and defraud Las Vegas-area homeowners’ associations.

Leon Benzer, 48, pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud and two counts of tax evasion, according to court documents.

Las Vegas
©iStock.com / Jacek_Sopotnicki

Leon Benzer was sentenced for his part in a $58,141,275 scheme to fraudulently gain control of condominium homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in the Las Vegas area to secure construction and other contracts for himself and others.

U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan of the District of Nevada ordered Benzer to pay restitution in the amount of $13,294,100 in addition to the prison term, federal prosecutors announced Aug. 6.

“Leon Benzer recruited and paid off puppets to serve on homeowners’ boards so that they would steer lucrative contracts to his company and cronies,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement.

“Far from enjoying their corrupt proceeds, however, Benzer and his co-conspirators will serve years behind prison bars.”

Benzer will begin serving his sentence Nov. 6. A list of others who have been sentenced is available here, along with other case details.

40+ Individuals Involved

Benzer, who was the owner of Silver Lining Construction, is among more than 40 individuals who have been convicted of crimes in connection with the wide-ranging scheme.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that three defendants died, one by suicide and two by natural causes, before they could be sentenced for their involvement.

Long-Running Scheme

Prosecutors say that from August 2003 to February 2009, Benzer and an attorney, the late Nancy Quon, developed a scheme to control the boards of directors of HOAs in the Las Vegas area, prosecutors said.

homebuilding
©iStock.com / SolielC

“Benzer manipulated and bribed HOA boards in order to enrich himself and his co-conspirators at the expense of American taxpayers," according to IRS-Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Weber.

“Quon never was charged, but killed herself in March 2012 under the weight of the federal investigation that began in November 2007,” according to the Review Journal.

According to documents in the case, Benzer and his co-conspirators recruited straw buyers to purchase condominiums and secure positions on HOAs’ boards of directors.

Benzer admitted that he paid the board members to take actions favorable to his interests, including hiring his co-conspirator’s law firm to handle construction-related litigation and awarding repair construction contracts to Benzer’s company, Silver Lining Construction, prosecutors said.

Statements in Court

During the sentencing hearing, Benzer’s attorney, Daniel Albregts, told the court that Benzer’s learning problems and low level of intelligence made him “incapable” of being the mastermind behind the conspiracy, the Review Journal reported.

Federal prosecutors disagreed.

“I don’t know Al Capone’s education, but he ran a pretty good criminal organization,” prosecutor Charles La Bella told the court. “Mr. Benzer was chairman of the board of this conspiracy from day one.”

The judge reportedly called the case “mind-boggling” in handing down Benzer’s sentence.

In a letter apologizing for his actions, Benzer reportedly said: “I don’t blame anyone but my own stupidity.”

   

Tagged categories: Business matters; Criminal acts; Fraud; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Residential contractors

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