Article Courtesy of Channel 8 -- Las
By George Knapp and Matt Adams
August 19, 2018
LAS VEGAS - The largest political corruption case in
southern Nevada came to an end Friday with the re-sentencing of the
The scheme focused
of seizing control of local homeowner associations and
involved dozens of co-conspirators including lawyers,
retired police officers, and others.
Former construction company owner Leon Benzer will serve
12 more years in federal prison for crimes that were
first reported by the I-Team.
Las Vegas has seen a lot of political corruption cases,
but never something this big.
Forty defendants were sentenced. Most of them pleaded
guilty, Leon Benzer, the ringleader, was the last to be
sentenced, and in the front row of the courtroom Friday
were the two investigators who started the ball rolling
-- a Metro detective and a former FBI agent. They wanted
to be there for the end.
Leon Benzer doesn't look like an organized crime boss, but he was the
principal target of Operation Mastermind, the name given to the
multi-agency investigation that began 11 years ago.
The Benzer who appeared in federal court Friday morning is a changed
man, his hair now thin and gray after spending the last three years in
prison awaiting re-sentencing.
As the I-Team first reported a decade ago, Benzer's ambitious scheme
involved devious plots to take over the management of nearly a dozen
homeowner associations, including Vistana, one of the largest.
Elections were rigged, thugs were hired to intimidate residents, and
once an HOA was under Benzer's control, lucrative construction defects
lawsuits were filed, but millions of dollars in settlements went to
Benzer's criminal organization, which included several well-known
attorneys, at least four former police officers, and dozens of others,
some of whom had strong political connections.
A total of 40 people were convicted or pleaded guilty.
Four suspects committed suicide before trial, including prominent
attorney Nancy Quon, who specialized in construction defects lawsuits.
Benzer pleaded guilty in 2015 but appealed his sentence. Friday, federal
Judge James Mahan heard a sobbing Benzer apologize for his misdeeds and
heard an emotional plea on video from Benzer's struggling wife and
children, but prosecutors reminded the court of the thousands of
homeowners who were victimized, many of them frail, elderly, and now
Benzer will have to serve 12 more years in prison and is responsible for
millions of dollars in restitution, money that likely will never be
As big as this was -- with 40 defendants -- the reality is there were
dozens of others who could have been charged but weren't, including
public officials. It's unknown if those names will ever be made public.
Though at this point it is too late to press charges.