HOA Scam Ringleader Wins Second Look at Prison Sentence

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The co-leader of a ring that bilked more than $50 million from two Las Vegas-area homeowners associations may duck 15 years in prison after the Ninth Circuit vacated his sentence Monday.

Leon Benzer, 50, was sentenced to 15.5 years in prison and ordered to pay $13.3 million in restitution in August 2015, after pleading guilty to leading a $58 million scheme to gain control of construction contracts at two Las Vegas condominium HOAs.

Benzer had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud and two counts of tax evasion.

Prosecutors said he was a co-leader of a 42-person conspiracy to gain control of the Vistana and Park Avenue HOAs and steer construction-defects contracts to Benzer’s businesses.

The Ninth Circuit on Monday reversed and remanded Benzer’s case along with that of co-defendant David Ball.

Benzer appealed the length of his sentence, saying a federal judge in Nevada erred in sentencing him to 188 months.

The panel agreed, saying Benzer had disputed the amount victims of the scheme lost as presented in the pre-sentencing report. But Instead of addressing Benzer’s dispute, U.S. District Judge James Mahan only said he felt the guidelines were sufficient for sentencing.

Mahan must resentence Benzer after properly considering what is disputed, the panel ruled sentence and remanded the matter back to Nevada District Court for resentencing. The circuit judges also vacated co-defendant David Ball’s sentence, which partly was based on Benzer’s sentence, and remanded for resentencing.

Benzer struck out in his appeal of the amounts of attorney’s fees and restitution, and that his actions caused actual losses for the HOAs. The panel said the HOAs were clear victims, the restitution amounts are based on trial exhibits used, and his activities incurred otherwise unnecessary legal fees for the HOAs.

The panel affirmed the convictions of three others – Edith Gillespie, Keith Gregory and Salvatore Ruvulo – and affirmed Gregory’s sentence.

Circuit Judges Carlos Bea, N. Randy Smith and U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno, sitting by designation from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania participated in the unsigned, unpublished memorandum.

 

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