HOA cases to go into late 2012

Article Courtesy of The Las Vegas Review-Journal

By Jeff German

Published December 9, 2011

Most of the sentencing for the defendants who pleaded guilty in the high-profile investigation of Las Vegas Valley homeowners associations have been pushed back to late next year.

Justice Department prosecutors sought to delay the sentencing, which were to start this month, as they mapped out their strategy to obtain indictments against higher-level players in the massive conspiracy. All 10 defendants who pleaded guilty have agreed to testify against the bigger players.

The scheme, which dates to 2003, involved stacking homeowners association boards with friendly members who would hand out legal work and construction defect contracts to co-conspirators. The investigation has targeted lawyers, judges and former police officers.

Prosecutors are gearing up to file another round of plea deals in court with cooperating defendants in the far-reaching investigation. As many as 15 new deals are said to be in the works.

The earliest sentencing in the case is July 26 for Denise Keser, who briefly ran a company that managed homeowners associations for her co-conspirators. She is to appear before U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro.

Attorney David Amesbury, who is recovering from injuries suffered in an assault authorities say is unrelated to the homeowners investigation, is set to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge James Mahan on Sept. 21. So is Mary Ann Watts, who also once ran a community association management company.

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro set new Sept. 24 sentencing for Darryl Scott Nichols, a former Chateau Versailles board member, and Angela Esparza, a former property management company employee.

Marcella Triana, who once had a personal relationship with former construction company owner Leon Benzer, a key target of the investigation, is scheduled to go before U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson on Oct. 10.

Senior U.S. District Judge Lloyd George reset the sentencing of political strategist Steve Wark, a former Vistana homeowners association board member, for Nov. 16.

George also scheduled Nov. 16 sentencing for Deborah Genato, a former homeowners association manager; Daniel Solomon, another former Vistana board member; and Ed Lugo, a former Park Avenue board member.

Many of those cooperating with Justice Department lawyers are expected to testify before a federal grand jury in the coming weeks against the higher-level players in the scheme to take over homeowners associations. Some defendants might be called to testify at trials.

All of the defendants are not likely to face sentencing until they fulfill their end of the plea bargains with prosecutors.

The sentencing delays are giving Vistana homeowners in southwest Las Vegas more time to mount a letter-writing campaign in court seeking restitution for what they say are millions of dollars in damages they suffered in the takeover scheme.

The scheme involved finding "straw purchasers" to buy condominiums at various developments and getting them to run for seats on the boards, federal court documents allege. Once on board, the paid-off members steered business to the co-conspirators.

The straw buyers were elected through classic dirty campaign tactics that included forging ballots and digging up dirt on candidates not supported by the co-conspirators, the documents allege.