United States v. Leon Benzer, et. al.
Court Docket Number: 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF
TThis case has been assigned to the Honorable James C. Mahan, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Nevada, 333 S. Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101.
On March 18, 2015, Keith Gregory, Salvatore Ruvolo, David Ball, and Edith Gillespie, 54, of Las Vegas, were found guilty yesterday of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Gregory and Ball were also convicted of two counts of wire fraud each, Ruvolo was convicted of three counts of wire fraud, and Gillespie was convicted of one count of wire fraud. Ruvolo was found not guilty of one count of mail fraud. Sentencing hearings are scheduled for June 17, 2015.
If you have suffered losses as a result of this scheme, you have the right to submit a Victim Impact Statement or letter in aid of sentencing to explain how the crimes affected you. Victim Impact includes physical, emotional and/or financial loss. Because there are many victims and multiple defendants in the HOA cases, we are asking that you complete this statement now as it relates to any or all of the defendants below and mail it no later than May 22, 2015 to: Pamela Washington, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, Room 4416, Washington, DC 20530. Alternatively, you may also fax the statement to Ms. Washington at (202) 514-7021. This will help to expedite the process if any of the indicted defendants decide to plead guilty. This statement is completely voluntary but is important to us because it reflects what you are having to personally and financially endure because of the defendants' crimes.
On January 27, 2015, Charles McChesney, a private investigator who worked for the owner of Silver Lining Construction (SLC), a Nevada-based construction company purporting to specialize in home building repairs involving construction defects, and also a straw buyer and SLC-controlled HOA board member, pleaded guilty to (Count 1: 18 U.S.C. § 1349) conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and (Counts 2 – 4: 18 U.S.C § 1341) three counts of wire fraud charged in a January 2013 indictment.
On January 23, 2015, Leon Benzer, the owner of Silver Lining Construction Company (SLC), a Nevada-based construction company purporting to specialize in home building and repairs, including repairs involving construction defects, plead guilty to (Count 1: 18 U.S.C. § 1349) conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, (Counts 2 – 15: 18 U.S.C § 1341) fourteen counts of wire fraud, and (Counts 16 and 17: 18 U.S.C. § 1001) two counts of mail fraud charged in a January 2013 indictment, and one count of tax evasion and one count of employment tax evasion charged in a May 2013 indictment. The charges stem from a scheme to fraudulently gain control of condominium homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in the Las Vegas area so that the HOAs would direct business to a certain law firm and SLC, as well as a related tax fraud scheme.
Additionally, there will be a Calendar Call to determine the order and timing of sentencing for the following defendants on May 18, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.: Jose Luis Alvarez, Ricky Anderson, Maria Limon, and Rudolfo Alvarez-Rodriguez.
On January 15, 2013, as the result of the ongoing HOA investigation, eleven individuals were charged in a seventeen count indictment for their alleged roles in a scheme to fraudulently take control of homeowners’ associations in the Las Vegas area.
The indicted defendants, all from the Las Vegas area, include:
 Leon Benzer
 Keith Gregory
 Charles McChesney;
 Barry Levinson
 Ricky Anderson
 Maria Limon
 Jose Luis Alvarez
 Rodolfo Alvarez-Rodriguez
 Salvatore Ruvolo
 David Ball
 Edith Gillespie
Each is indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Most of the defendants are also variously charged with individual counts of mail fraud and/or wire fraud. Limon is additionally charged with making a false statement to law enforcement. Defendants Barry Levinson, Ricky Anderson, Maria Limon, Jose Luis Alvarez, Charles McChesney and Rudolfo Alvarez-Rodriguez have all pled guilty.
According to the indictment, the fraud scheme, which allegedly operated from approximately August 2003 through February 2009, directed construction defect litigation and repairs at condominium complexes to a particular, conspiring law firm and Benzer’s construction company, Silver Lining Construction (SLC). In order to accomplish the scheme, Benzer and his co-conspirators allegedly identified homeowners’ associations (HOAs) that could potentially bring construction defect cases and then allegedly enlisted real estate agents to identify condominium units within the HOA communities for purchase. According to court documents, Benzer and others, including Gillespie, enlisted "straw purchasers," including Alvarez, Alvarez-Rodriguez, Anderson, Ball, Gillespie, Limon, McChesney, and Ruvolo, to use their names and credit to purchase condos in the complexes.
On at least 37 occasions, Benzer and certain co-conspirators allegedly provided the down payments and monthly payments on behalf of the straw purchasers, including HOA dues and mortgage payments, and various false and misleading statements were made to secure financing for the properties. The co-conspirators also made various false and misleading statements to secure financing for the properties. Further, to manage the properties, Benzer and others allegedly conspired to open at least five bank accounts through which they moved more than $8 million. Eventually, 33 of the 37 units went into foreclosure.
According to court documents, on several occasions and at the direction of Benzer, co-conspirators transferred a partial interest in particular condominiums to other co-conspirators to make them look like homeowners who could stand for election to the HOA board of directors, which many of these individuals and the straw purchasers agreed to do. To ensure conspirators won the elections, the defendants allegedly employed deceitful tactics, such as submitting fake and forged ballots, some of which were sent through the U.S. mail. Co-conspirators also hired complicit attorneys to run the HOA board elections as “special election masters,” to preside over the HOA board elections and supervise the counting of ballots.
Once elected, according to the indictment, the conspiring board members met with Benzer and other co-conspirators in order to manipulate board votes and process, including the selection of property managers, contractors, general counsel and attorneys to represent the HOA – including Benzer’s construction company and the conspiring law firm. Gregory and Levinson, both attorneys licensed in Nevada, allegedly agreed to become the general counsel for the Vistana and Sunset Cliffs; and Park Avenue and Pebble Creek complexes, respectively.
Limon, Benzer and others also allegedly agreed to open a property management company in order to provide services at Chateau Nouveau and other condo complexes in furtherance of the scheme. The indictment also alleges that Limon falsely told law enforcement officials she did not communicate with Benzer about this and did not know he funded and controlled her company.
At the conclusion of the scheme, millions of dollars of Vistana’s construction defect settlement proceeds were transferred to Benzer and SLC, according to the indictment. According to court documents, the defendants were each given cash or things of value from Benzer and others for their alleged roles in the conspiracy. The maximum potential penalty for each count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, mail fraud, or wire fraud is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum potential penalty for making a false official statement is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. There has been no finding of guilt with respect to the defendants, and they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A copy of the Indictment and Victim Impact Form can be found by clicking on the links below:
DOJ Press Release – March 18, 2015 - Las Vegas Attorney and Three Others Convicted for Their Roles in a Fraudulent Scheme to Take Over Homeowners’ Associations
Victim Impact Statement Form (Fillable PDF)
Victim Impact Statement Form