A Las Vegas attorney pleaded guilty today for his role in multiple schemes to defraud his clients, to defraud the IRS and to fraudulently gain control of condominium homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in the Las Vegas area to ensure that the HOAs would steer business to a certain law firm and a certain construction company.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Laura Bucheit of the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office, Sheriff Doug Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Acting Special Agent in Charge Shea Jones of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
Barry Levinson, 47, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan in the District of Nevada to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Levinson is the 30th person to plead guilty in connection with the scheme to defraud HOAs in the Las Vegas area. Levinson simultaneously pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and one count of wire fraud, with the latter charge relating to his embezzlement of his legal clients’ funds.
Levinson admitted that from approximately August 2003 through February 2009, he participated in a scheme to control various HOA boards of directors so that the HOA boards would award the handling of construction-related lawsuits and remedial construction contracts to his law firm and construction company designated by Levinson’s co-conspirators. This scheme was carried out in part by straw buyers who purchased properties in their names that were in reality paid for and controlled by other co-conspirators. According to plea documents, Levinson’s co-conspirators managed and operated the payments associated with maintaining straw properties by running a so-called “Bill Pay Program,” by which co-conspirators funded the properties through several limited liability companies at the direction of a co-conspirator. Many of the payments were wired from California to Nevada.
Levinson admitted that he was hired to represent the Park Avenue condominium complex, but he treated a co-conspirator as his client rather than the HOA itself. Levinson also admitted that several of his co-conspirators rigged an HOA board election at Park Avenue. Levinson admitted that, after a lawsuit was filed by the homeowners and a special election master was designated for the make-up election, he attempted to bribe the special election master.
Similarly, Levinson admitted that after a rigged election at the Pebble Creek HOA, the homeowners filed a recall petition. Levinson was hired as the HOA general counsel at the direction of a co-conspirator and took several steps to deter the recall election, including firing the property management company and filing a lawsuit to stop the recall election.
Related to the tax evasion charge, Levinson admitted that he failed to file taxes for the 2005 to 2010 tax years and filed a false 2011 tax return. Levinson also admitted that he took affirmative steps to evade taxes for the tax years 2009, 2010 and 2011, including concealing cash earnings from the IRS and telling the IRS that his business was no longer operating.
Finally, related to the wire fraud charge, Levinson admitted that between March 2010 and September 2011, he embezzled nearly $180,000 from at least nine different minor personal injury clients. Levinson also admitted that he stole another $65,000 from an individual for whom he was serving as an escrow agent.
As part of the plea agreement, Levinson has agreed to be disbarred by the State Bar of Nevada.
Levinson’s sentencing is scheduled for May 5, 2014. The maximum sentence for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud is 30 years in prison. The maximum sentence for attempting to evade or defeat federal taxes is five years in prison. The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Criminal Intelligence Section.
The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Charles La Bella, Senior Deputy Chief for Litigation Kathleen McGovern and Trial Attorneys Thomas B.W. Hall and Alison Anderson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The Department also thanks former Trial Attorneys Mary Ann McCarthy and Nicole Sprinzen for their efforts in prosecuting the case.