I-Team: More Targets in HOA Conspiracy

Article and Video Courtesy of Channel 8 NewsNow

By George Knapp

Published June 5, 2012

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LAS VEGAS -- Twenty five people have now admitted their guilt in a massive political corruption conspiracy involving a dozen local homeowner associations, but the case is far from over.

Federal lawmen say the investigation is ongoing and as many as a dozen additional targets are in their crosshairs.

It was tough trying to get a comment out of any of the defendants in the HOA corruption case. They bolted, dodged, and hid their faces as they entered and left federal court Thursday.

Defendant Lisa Kim was far less talkative than she had been inside the courtroom. "You guys are ridiculous. You should be embarrassed," she said to the I-Team crew.

Defendant Paul Citelli found himself bouncing like a ping pong ball between two I-Team cameras. The HOA mess is not his first trouble with the law. The FBI thinks he's affiliated with the Buffalo mob. The Review-Journal's John Smith reported last year that Citelli was part of a huge Mafia cocaine ring back in the 1980s.

It's not surprising that attorney Brian Jones and disbarred lawyer Jeanne Winkler declined comment since that's what lawyers do, but inside the courthouse, they -- like the others who appeared -- all told the judge they were guilty of participating in the conspiracy to take over and pillage a dozen homeowner associations to the tune of millions of dollars.

Patrick Bergsrud, for instance, helped loot the Vistana HOA even after news of the FBI probe had already broken.

"In 2008, after the FBI raids, he went to a bank and withdrew the last $450,000, leaving Vistana with $2,000 out of the $8 million we won, and very little repair work was done," said Bruce Wallace with the Vistana HOA.

A rigged election at the Park Avenue HOA, orchestrated by a corrupt board, hurt every homeowner by directing huge sums to construction company owner Leon Benzer.

"We have 642 owners there. Every one was impacted by what they did," said Barbara Noto, Park Avenue HOA.

Chief prosecutor Charles Labella says his team will work through the summer on additional

indictments. One obvious target is alleged ringleader Leon Benzer, who has yet to be charged.

The 25 who have already admitted their guilt will also face civil lawsuits filed by that HOA's that were financially gutted.

Defendants in the HOA case may have to contend with the IRS. Special Agent in Charge Paul Camacho told the I-Team that his office has been working closely with the FBI and Metro in the HOA investigation. Most of the money was undeclared income by the defendants.