HOA Investigation Widens

Article Courtesy of Channel 8, LasVegasNow
Published November 21, 2008 
By George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter

It's a time honored truism -- whenever the FBI gets real quiet, that's when you'd better start worrying. A law enforcement task force made up of federal agents and Metro detectives is pounding away at the HOA corruption case.

Among the more interesting leads they are checking out are rumors that some of the central suspects are trying to sell their businesses and move out of town and the likelihood that huge piles of ill-gotten cash were stashed in offshore bank accounts.

Lawmen have zeroed in on a cadre of main suspects, who are all in denial.

Attorney Nancy Quon is a familiar face to local television viewers. The construction defects attorney and fellow lawyer John Leach have co-hosted their show Homeowner Talk since the late 90's, dispensing words of wisdom about homeowner associations, construction defects, and the law through the City of Las Vegas community channel.

Quon and Leach pay the city for the production and the show promotes their respective law firms.

Quon has used other publicly owned venues to raise her profile. She teaches construction defects classes for the State of Nevada Real Estate Division. As evidence of just how lucrative a niche her specialty is, the website for her law firm lists the biggest settlements she's reached on behalf of homeowner associations. The total is more than $115 million.

A political corruption task force suspects that Quon didn't succeed by playing by the rules.

Quon did not return phone calls but her attorney Stan Lee said that, as far as he knows, Quon is not a target of the investigation. Lee said Quon has spoken with law enforcement more than once but he would not say if she has agreed to become a cooperating witness.

Back in September, Quon's law office was searched by agents looking for documents linking her to other principal suspects.

One of those other people, contractor Leon Benzer, owner of Silver Lining Construction, has certainly benefited by knowing Quon. The two are close personally, and Benzer reportedly performed extensive remodeling at Quon's homes and office as payback for all the work she has steered his way.

He specializes in rehab work in communities plagued by construction defects, and wherever a homeowner association hired Quon to file a defects lawsuit, Benzer's company usually gets the lucrative repair work.

On the day the task force made the investigation known, Benzer's office was the first place to be searched. Benzer has told associates that he isn't a target either.

It's unknown if he has offered to cooperate with the government.

Benzer has also done extensive remodeling for his friend Lisa Kim, formerly Lisa Nicklin, president of Platinum Management Services which manages dozens of homeowner associations all over the valley.

Kim is married to decorated Metro Police Lieutenant Ben Kim, head of the fraud unit. Ben Kim is also a business partner with Leon Benzer.

On day one of the investigation, agents served search warrants at Platinum's office. The company's attorney said no one at the firm is a target, although residents at various Platinum managed communities have given information to the FBI, in particular about allegedly rigged elections.

Platinum is supposed to oversee elections to homeowner boards. Residents say the deck was stacked and that friends and employees of Benzers infiltrated the HOA's then got themselves elected through scurrilous means.

"They looked like real ballots that came in. Someone duplicated ballots, duplicated envelopes and mailed them en masse," said Park Avenue resident Lee Lahargue.

"Platinum is collaborating with what's going on," said Park Avenue board member Barbara Noto.

Lisa Kim has not returned phone calls and it is not known if she has decided to spill the beans to investigators.

In all, 43 names have surfaced in the investigation, more than a dozen sites have been searched, thousands of pages of documents have been seized and are being analyzed.

No one linked to the task force will talk about the probe, but sources familiar with the effort say the agents and detectives have more information than they know what to do with and more coming in daily.

Of less concern to the lawmen are the lower level players who worked as agents for the others and got themselves elected to as many as three homeowner boards at the same time.

Some of those are ex-Metro officers who will certainly be pressured to cooperate.

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