And this one, my friends, is being committed by a Federal Judge and a US Attorney. The hundred million dollar HOA scam that led to 43 federal convictions in Las Vegas is over. But the judge has ordered all the records from that scam and prosecution to be sealed.
As a reporter I spent a lifetime getting official records unsealed. When things are sealed, there are usually some dirty secrets in those records that make public officials not want to be accountable to the public they serve. This particular sealing of records is incredibly suspicious because of all the public officials who were involved. In the beginning of this investigation there were plenty of hints that one or more Nevada judges was involved. There was also suspicion about a ‘high up’ national political figure who had his fingers in the pie.
Rumors are that the mastermind of the 60 million dollar Las Vegas HOA scam has reported for his federal prison sentence. I’ve long predicted that Leon Benzer would never, ever report to federal prison. He knows how to get in and out of Mexico. He once owned a tequila company there. With a 15 1/2 year prison sentence would he not be tempted to cross the border?
I’m still not giving up my suspicion that Benzer will retire to a Mexican beach. He’ll only serve half his prison time, anyway, so maybe he actually will show up. And the white collar criminals I’ve known have absolutely loved their time in prison. They’re worshiped as heroes behind bars. Of course, Benzer knows that. But we’ll see.
I’ve been in the news business for 40 years and I’ve seen so many goofy things happen. Nothing surprises me anymore.
Yes, police investigators need to ask for lighter prison sentences for informants. But they have an overwhelming obligation to protect the public. That’s their primary job. When the number two player in a 60 million dollar scam victimizing Las Vegas homeowners agrees to cooperate with investigators, does that mean he gets off scott-free? Apparently in Las Vegas that’s exactly what it means. Ralph Priola could have been sentenced to 22 years. But federal prosecutors say he deserves no prison time. NONE!
There’s an excellent column in the Las Vegas Review Journal about one of the sleazy cops who took part in the massive HOA corruption scandal. It’s linked below.
(link to Review-Journal column on corrupt cop, Kim)
Also linked is an FBI press release on its long-running HOA investigation. Supposedly, this was a ten million dollar swindle, but now the FBI is using the figure $58 million. The real losses are many times that amount because the Leon Benzer HOA swindle helped collapse the Las Vegas housing market and an untold number of people lost their homes and life savings. Someday, some smart investigator will start calling it the billion dollar swindle, which it clearly was.
Well, good old Las Vegas mobster Leon Benzer has finally met justice in his plan to steal millions and millions of dollars from Homeowners Associations. Not much justice, but at least federal judge James Mahan has now sentenced Benzer to 15 1/2 years in federal prison. With ‘good time’ he may end up spending seven years behind bars. Most of his 38 co-conspirators in the massive scam to take over Las Vegas Homeowners Associations got probation to a year-and-a-half in prison.
Of the other conspirators, a number have died, some of them by suicide. Benzer was the last to be sentenced in the long-running case.