"Former construction company boss Leon Benzer, the man behind the massive scheme to take over and defraud Las Vegas-area homeowners associations, was sentenced Thursday to 15 ½ years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge James Mahan also ordered Benzer to serve five years of supervised release after prison and pay $13.4 million in restitution. Benzer, 48, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges, is to surrender to prison authorities Nov. 6."
So ends the biggest white collar crime prosecution in the history of Las Vegas--eleven HOA taken over by a fraud ring and used to steal millions of dollars. But (see post below) we are not going to see the evidence, which remains sealed by virtue of the US Attorney's office and the federal judiciary. My view is the public needs to learn from this case. We have here the worst example ever seen of HOA private governments being taken over by vendors--contractors and lawyers, mainly--who used them like ATMs. These were people who knew the HOA industry from the inside--who knew how easy it can be for a small group of self-interested people to take over an HOA board of directors, because of the culture of non-participation that prevails in far too many common interest developments. This is a serious problem all over the country--in fact, all over the world. Nothing is going to change this situation--most people just don't want to be bothered with paying attention to the affairs of their HOA. Their lives are too busy already. The day will never come when owners live up to the ridiculous expectations that this institution imposes on them. The people who own units in CIDS are just consumers of a mass-produced product, and they need to be protected against the possibility that predatory industry insiders might take advantage of them. I realize that most lawyers, managers, and contractors are trustworthy, but owners have insufficient protection against those who are not. The prosecutors and judges need to open these files so the public and the media and the academy can see exactly how this scheme worked. Then legislators can take the necessary steps to fix this--starting with mandatory full public disclosure of the financial status of every single HOA and condo association.