Agents pursue HOA records

Board members, lawyers, construction firms scrutinized

Article Courtesy of Las Vegas Review-Journal
Published September 26, 20068 

In its sweeping investigation into homeowners associations, the federal government is digging up documents and correspondence related to association board members, attorneys and construction companies, according to a search warrant issued in the probe.

During searches of seven common-interest communities governed by homeowners associations, FBI agents sought ballot lists, ballots, envelopes and nomination forms.

Authorities are investigating whether individuals were planted on homeowners association boards to funnel business stemming from construction defect lawsuits to certain attorneys and construction companies.

In one case, according to a source close to a construction company alleging it was frozen out of the bidding process to fix construction defects, the owner of a property management company referred so many cases to the same law firm she was rewarded with a trip to Cabo San Lucas.

Agents are searching homeowners association records and ballot information dating back to 2001. The properties listed on one search warrant include Vistaņa, Chateau Versailles, Pebble Creek, Park Avenue, Sunset Cliffs, Chateau Nouveau and Mission Pointe.

The government also seeks seven years of correspondence involving 43 people including Lisa Kim, president of the property management firm Platinum Community Services, which was raided by agents Wednesday. Some of the others include current and former homeowners association board members around the valley.

An attorney for Platinum, Blaine Beckstead, said Thursday that the warrant Platinum was served with on Wednesday did not include the names of Kim or any other Platinum employee. The Review-Journal verified Thursday night that Kim, who could not be reached for comment, was not listed on the warrant served at that location.

Agents are also interested in documents related to political consultant Steve Wark, who served as president of the Vistaņa Homeowners Association, as well as prominent construction defect attorneys Scott Canepa and Nancy Quon.

Being named in a warrant does not necessarily mean individuals were involved in wrongdoing. No arrests were made as a result of the raids.

Canepa and Quon were unable to be reached for comment.

Wark did not sound surprised that his name was listed in the warrant. He was president of the Vistaņa homeowners association between late 2005 and fall 2007, he said.

Quon was one of the attorneys who represented the association in its 2005 lawsuit against Rhodes Ranch. The company fought Rhodes over faulty plumbing and other problems.

"I was president of the association, and I would expect at some point that people need to talk to me," Wark said.

He said he wasn't involved in any wrongdoing and that he has not been contacted by law enforcement.

Search warrants were executed Wednesday on nine valley properties, including a building on Bertsos Drive, near Flamingo Road and Arville Street, which is owned by Silver Lining Construction owner Leon Benzer. Federal agents are also after contracts and invoices related to Benzer's construction company.

But a source close to Silver Lining Construction said that the company was not involved in any wrongdoing.

Instead, the source said, it was another firm, Draeger Construction, that monopolized the construction defect rehabilitation industry, freezing out other bidders.

According to the source, competitors of Draeger, including Silver Lining, are looking into filing a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the construction company, property managers and attorneys. The gist of the complaint is that Draeger has monopolized the market because it is in cahoots with the property managers and attorneys.

Draeger Construction is listed in one of the warrants.

A message left for Draeger representatives was not returned Thursday.

According to the source, one property management company, Castle Management, referred all construction defect complaints to a local law firm which would then suggest to the homeowners board that it hire Draeger Construction to do tests and make repairs.

Other competitive bidders, such as Silver Lining, are not even considered even though they may offer the best deal, the source said.

At one point, the law firm treated Castle Management owner Diane Wild on a trip to Mexico, the source said.

Wild did not return calls seeking comment.

Draeger Construction landed the jobs in part because it showered homeowners association board members with gifts, the source said. But it also pitched itself as the only company that could provide properties with certain materials, weeding out other bidders.