Article Courtesy of Las Vegas News
Talk about tough luck. What were the odds that retired Metro cop Frank Sutton would have not one, not two, but three condominiums involved in construction defect litigation?
That's what I call a strange coincidence.
It appears the public corruption units of the FBI and Metro think the coincidence is strange, too.
Sutton's name is among those listed in an FBI search warrant served at several local businesses and residences Wednesday as part of an investigation into possible criminal collusion between homeowners associations and persons associated with construction defect lawsuits. Law enforcement is looking for evidence of fraud and election rigging.
It's not known whether Sutton is a criminal subject, but what is clear is that his name appears several times in connection with HOAs, construction defect litigation and the contractor whose construction company landed so much of the repair work. Finding himself mentioned even in passing in a criminal investigation is a substantial departure for a man who rose to the rank of captain at Metro and put in 25 years before retiring out of the vice/narcotics unit.
Judging from the locations where the search warrant was served, Silver Lining Construction owner Leon Benzer is a central figure in the investigation. His residence and business addresses were raided Wednesday. Silver Lining specializes in construction defect repair.
On Oct. 30, Sutton was deposed in a lawsuit pitting the High Noon Homeowners Association against developer D.R. Horton and a group of subcontractors. The homeowners were represented by an attorney with Quon, Bruce and Christensen, a law firm that specializes in HOA representation and construction defect litigation. It also has surfaced in the pending investigation.
Of Sutton's seven residential properties, according to the deposition, three were involved in construction defect lawsuits.
The coincidences didn't stop there. Sutton also was a member of the homeowners associations of the Fiesta, Mission Ridge and High Noon developments. The makeup of the High Noon board is now the subject of litigation after allegations of election fraud were raised. A lawsuit has also been generated at Pebble Creek, where Sutton attempted to become a board member.
"Why are you running for the boards?" Horton attorney Jack Juan asked.
"Because I like to have a say-so on the properties that I buy, and I just want to keep the values as high as I can because they're mostly investments," Sutton responded. "And pretty much that's it. I figure if I'm going to purchase the property, I want to have the best opportunity to have my say-so within the community. And to protect people in the Valley, and keep the area safe and keep values up."
But then comes another coincidence. At the time of his deposition, Sutton was also employed by Benzer at Silver Lining, a company that makes millions repairing construction defects. He said he did consulting, security and management work for Benzer.
There's no doubting Sutton has aggressively pursued both condominium purchases and a place on the influential HOA boards. In fact, he was so motivated to purchase a condominium at the High Noon development he went ahead with the purchase despite knowing there was an alleged construction defect on the property. At High Noon, a construction defect lawsuit involving 39 homeowners (not the association) resulted in just one of 177 alleged building flaws being affirmed at trial.
Sutton was downright anxious to become a High Noon board member. In his deposition, he said he was contacted by other High Noon board members to run for a spot. He also told Juan, "I ran for all the boards wherever I purchased property." He also had a friend in the neighborhood, former Metro officer Christopher Van Cleef, who also purchased a unit.
With that we begin another coincidence. Not only did Sutton and Van Cleef purchase High Noon units together, but they also bought condominiums in the Pebble Creek and Mission Ridge developments.
After becoming a High Noon Homeowners Association board member, Sutton filed a lawsuit against two other members and the association. A recall election was ordered by the court.
After the ballots were cast, a court-ordered special master determined the counting was fraudulent after an extra box of ballots was found. In his deposition, Sutton swore he knew nothing about it.
Hey, just add it to the list of coincidences.