United States v. Leon Benzer et. al.
Court Docket Number: 2:13-cr-00018 (D. Nevada)
Court Assigned: This case has been assigned to Judge James C. Mahan, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Nevada, Courtroom 6A, 333 S. Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101.
Criminal Charges: 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.
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.
For more information about the charges, please see below:
DOJ Press Release – March 18, 2015
U.S. v. Leon Benzer: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-1
U.S. v. Keith Gregory: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-2
U.S. v. Charles McChesney: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-3
U.S. v. Barry Levinson: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-4
U.S. v. Ricky Anderson: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-5
U.S. v. Maria Limon: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-6
U.S. v. Jose Luis Alvarez: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-7
U.S. v. Rudolfo Alvarez-Rodriguez: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-8
U.S. v. Salvator Ruvolo: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-9
U.S. v. David Ball: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-10
U.S. v. Edith Gillespie: Docket No. 2:13-cr-00018-JCM-GWF-11
The information on this website will be updated as new developments arise in the case. If you have any questions, please contact the Victim Assistance Unit by calling toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presumption of Innocence: It is important to keep in mind that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that presumption requires both the court and our office to take certain steps to ensure that justice is served.
Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Right to Retain Counsel: The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771) applies only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus individuals may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which the individual is a victim was not charged. Section 377I(c)(2) of this Act requires that we advise you that you have the right to retain counsel. Although the statute specifically sets forth your right to seek advice of an attorney with regard to your rights under the statute, there is no requirement that you retain counsel. The Government may not recommend any specific counsel, nor can the Government (or the Court) pay for counsel to represent you. Government attorneys represent the United States.
If you elect to obtain counsel to represent your interests, please have your attorney notify this office in writing at: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20530, Attention: Victim Witness Unit; fax: (202) 514-3708; or email: email@example.com. If you elect not to retain counsel to represent your interests, you do not need to do anything.
Plea Agreements: Please be aware that many criminal cases are resolved by plea agreement between the Department of Justice and the defendant. You should also know that it is not unusual for a defendant to seek to negotiate a plea agreement shortly before trial is scheduled to begin. Plea agreements can be made at any time and as late as the morning of trial, leaving little or no opportunity to provide notice to you of the date and time of the plea hearing. If the court schedules a plea hearing in this case, we will use our best efforts to notify you of available information as soon as practicable. If you want to inform the prosecutor of your views regarding potential plea agreements, or any other aspect of the case, please call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will put you in touch with the prosecutor.