Article Courtesy of The Las Vegas
By Jeff German
August 16, 2015
In a decision hailed as a victory for transparency
in the courts, a federal judge Monday unsealed documents that could shed
more light on the government's long-running investigation into fraud and
corruption at homeowners associations.
Some three-dozen secretly filed documents were covered under the order
sought by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and attorney Maggie McLetchie.
"We're pleased that the public will now have access to the majority of
the substantive documents that were sealed in the case," McLetchie said.
"This case gets to the heart of key public policy issues facing Southern
Nevada in the biggest corruption case in our history."
McLetchie said the order by U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. is an
"important step forward for transparency" not only in the HOA case but
for the courts in general.
"The press can't report on important critical proceedings like this if
the documents are all kept secret," McLetchie said.
Some of the documents were filed under seal with no public notice,
"There were documents we didn't even know were sealed," she said. "They
were completely cloaked from public view."
Foley has promised a written decision on a second Review-Journal request
to dissolve two protective orders he signed barring disclosure of
massive amounts of HOA evidence, including many documents not filed with
One of the orders kept secret some 6 million pages of documents,
including 10,000 pages of FBI reports, federal prosecutors turned over
to lawyers representing defendants preparing to stand trial. The other
order withheld information from the public about a separate Justice
Department investigation of alleged government leaks in the HOA case.
Former construction company boss Leon Benzer ran the HOA takeover scheme
from 2003 to 2009, rigging HOA board elections in a bid to gain control
of a dozen associations. The late construction defect lawyer Nancy Quon
sued contractors on behalf of the boards, which in some cases attempted
to use settlement proceeds to pay Benzer's company for repair work.
Quon was never charged, but while under investigation killed herself in
March 2012. Benzer pleaded guilty in January, avoiding a trial that
would have forced the government to make public much of the evidence in
the wide-ranging scheme, which included prominent attorneys, former
police officers and others. He was sentenced Thursday to 15 1/2 years in
A total of 42 defendants either pleaded guilty or were convicted at
trial in the case.
Prosecutors oppose dissolving the protective orders — especially the one
that covers the leak investigation, which focused on concerns that Quon
was getting confidential information from the Nevada U.S. attorney's
office and possibly elsewhere.
Thomas Hall, one of the Justice Department prosecutors in the HOA case,
told Foley last week that the leak investigation delved into personal
and romantic relationships of public officials who have not been charged
criminally or disciplined administratively.
Hall said that since the allegations weren't substantiated, making
public the names of the officials would embarrass them.
"Their personal lives were dealt with in a very serious way," he said.
But McLetchie argued the public has a right to know who the officials
were and what they were suspected of doing.