- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Three more defendants have pleaded guilty, and a prosecutor announced the government is ready for trial in a sweeping six-year probe of a group of business owners and attorneys accused of steering Las Vegas-area condominium homeowner association contracts to friends.

Former property manager Maria Limon and brothers Jose Luis Alvarez and Rudolfo Alvarez-Rodriguez entered their pleas Thursday to federal conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud charges in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, records show. District Judge James Mahan scheduled their sentencings Jan. 21.

Limon, Alvarez and Alvarez-Rodriguez agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and pay restitution. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1ibkMTR ) that Limon owes $24,000; Alvarez, $184,200 and Alvarez-Rodriguez, $119,585. In return, prosecutors promised to recommend lenient sentences and drop other charges against them.

Another defendant, Ricky Anderson, was due to plead guilty Friday. Anderson, 50, was imprisoned on a statutory rape conviction in Texas at the time of his January 2013 indictment. He was alleged to be an enforcer for former construction company boss and scheme mastermind Leon Benzer.

The four deals this week follow a February plea agreement by Barry Levinson, a suspended attorney who faces disbarment for his conviction.

It leaves Benzer, 47, and five co-defendants to stand trial in October on conspiracy and fraud charges.

Lead prosecutor Charles La Bella announced Thursday that the government was ready for trial.

LaBella told Mahan that prosecutors won’t accept plea deals with remaining defendants unless they enter guilty pleas to all of the charges against them in the indictment.

The broad investigation became public in September 2008, when FBI agents and Las Vegas police served search warrants at homes and businesses in and around Las Vegas. It is being overseen by the Justice Department’s Fraud Section in Washington, D.C.

To date, more than 30 people have pleaded guilty in the scheme that prosecutors say defrauded 11 homeowner associations of millions of dollars between 2003 and 2009.

The defendants are accused of conspiring to pack homeowner association boards to gain legal and construction defect contracts.

Straw buyers were recruited to purchase condominiums at developments and then get elected to the association boards through bribery and rigged elections.

Benzer and Nancy Quon, a construction defect lawyer who committed suicide in March 2012, and others are alleged to have funneled millions of dollars through secret bank accounts to fund the scheme to land lucrative contracts from the homeowner associations.

Quon hadn’t been charged in the case when she died. Another attorney, David Amesbury, a former Benzer business partner who had pleaded guilty in the case, also committed suicide in March 2012.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, https://www.lvrj.com


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