Las Vegas lawyer’s misdeeds draw lengthy prison term

Article Courtesy of The Las Vegas Review-Journal

By Jeff German

Published May 25, 2015


Suspended attorney Barry Levinson, who has more Nevada bar complaints against him than any other lawyer, was ordered Friday to spend serious time in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan sentenced Levinson to 78 months behind bars for his role in the scheme to take over and defraud homeowners associations and for stealing client funds and hiding money from the IRS.


Mahan also ordered Levinson to serve five years of supervised release after prison and pay a share of $19 million in restitution in the HOA case and another $271,000 to former clients and the IRS.

He is to surrender to federal authorities on Aug. 21.

“It’s a sad day for us, as lawyers, Mr Levinson, to see you here,” Mahan said. “It’s sad to see someone fall so far. I want to say, ‘What were you thinking?’”

A tearful Levinson apologized to the judge, fellow members of his profession and the entire community.

“I embarrassed Las Vegas. I let everybody down,” he said. “I accept responsibility for what happened. It’s my fault. I made the mistakes. I’m paying for it.”

Defense lawyer Brent Bryson added, “He stands before this court a broken man. He’s humbled. He’s humiliated.”

Local attorney Barry Levinson, left, speaks with his attorney Brent Bryson before going into Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse for sentencing Friday, May 22, 2015, in Las Vegas. Levinson is charged with HOA fraud and other criminal counts, including stealing from his clients.

Levinson, 48, pleaded guilty in February 2014 to conspiracy in the HOA scheme, wire fraud in the theft of $243,435 from his clients and tax evasion in failing to pay the IRS $28,211.

With his consent, the State Bar of Nevada asked the Nevada Supreme Court at the time to permanently take away his license to practice law. The court has yet to issue a disbarment order.

State Bar Counsel David Clark, who was in federal court Friday, said afterward that his organization received 124 grievances against Levinson over the past several years, more than any Nevada lawyer.

Levinson’s plea was part of an agreement he and Bryson struck with federal and Clark County prosecutors to resolve all of his criminal charges. He still faces felony charges in District Court of stealing more than $1 million from his clients, but any prison time he gets there will run concurrent to his federal sentence.

In court papers last week, federal prosecutors said Levinson betrayed the trust of homeowners as general counsel for the Park Avenue HOA board. His real loyalty was to the scheme’s central figure, former construction company boss Leon Benzer, who was seeking a lucrative contract for construction defect work.

Under Benzer’s direction, prosecutors wrote, Levinson tried to bribe another lawyer overseeing an HOA election there to ensure Benzer’s candidates were elected.

As general counsel at Pebble Creek, Levinson tried to derail a recall election of Benzer-controlled board members, according to prosecutors.

A dozen HOA boards across the valley were targeted by Benzer, who pleaded guilty in January, as the scheme flourished between 2003 and 2009.

Levinson was the last of 19 defendants sentenced this week in the largest public corruption case federal authorities have brought in Southern Nevada. More defendants, including Benzer, are waiting to be sentenced this summer.