Notary public pleads guilty in sweeping HOA fraud case

Article Courtesy of The Las Vegas Review-Journal

By Jeff German

Published April 16, 2012  

Another defendant pleaded guilty Thursday in the federal investigation into fraud and corruption at Las Vegas Valley homeowners associations.

Mahin Quintero, 27, a former loan processor and notary public who lives in the Reno area, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of producing a false authentication feature.

Quintero, the 11th defendant to plead guilty and cooperate with Justice Department lawyers, acknowledged in her agreement that she falsely authenticated signatures on loan documents for straw buyers in the massive scheme to take over homeowners associations.

Authorities have alleged that former Silver Lining Construction boss Leon Benzer and the late construction defects lawyer, Nancy Quon, were behind the scheme, which involved steering legal and construction defect contracts at the associations to favored firms.

Benzer has discussed striking a plea deal with federal prosecutors, but remains a target of the investigation. Quon was found dead in the bathtub of her Henderson condominium on March 20. Police do not suspect foul play.

Quintero told Senior U.S. District Judge Philip Pro in court on Thursday that she was ordered to destroy her notary book as the federal investigation became public more than three years ago.

Pro set a Nov. 30 sentencing.

Her lawyer, Terrence Jackson, declined comment afterward.

Federal prosecutors have filed 14 more guilty pleas under seal in the far-reaching investigation, which has embroiled about a dozen homeowners associations.

The 14 defendants are to enter guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge James Mahan on May 31.

Each is pleading guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, according to copies of sealed court papers obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Justice Department lawyers Charles La Bella and Mary Ann McCarthy have asked Mahan in the court papers to unseal and consolidate the new cases with the previously filed cases.

In her 12-page plea agreement, Quintero acknowledged that she notarized loan documents for straw buyers at Vistana, Chateau Nouveau, Chateau Versailles, Pebble Creek and other condominium complexes as part of the scheme between October 2005 and February 2006.

"On several occasions, defendant produced the notarization without the signatory on the document physically appearing before her, as required by her state of Nevada notary license," the plea agreement said.

Quintero knew that what she was doing was wrong," the agreement added.

After the loans were approved, the straw buyers would run for the various HOA boards, and then if elected, would act to steer business to those orchestrating the scheme, prosecutors have alleged.

La Bella and McCarthy said in their sealed court papers that more plea deals are in the works.

Additional lawyers and former police officers are among those yet to be charged. Judges originally were targeted in the investigation, but so far none have been charged.

Prosecutors have the option of taking evidence to a federal grand jury against the targets who have not cooperated.

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Deaths haven't halted litigation in HOA-related case

Nancy Quon found dead in bathtub