High-profile construction defects attorney Nancy Quon was one of the bigger targets of the federal investigation into the takeover of Las Vegas Valley homeowners associations.
But her death Tuesday isn't likely to slow the momentum of federal prosecutors as they press ahead against other targets.
"Based on my knowledge of the federal case, I do not believe there is any chance that Ms. Quon's death will derail the case," said former District Attorney David Roger, who spearheaded his own investigation into Quon's activities. "She was just one target, and all of the evidence continues to implicate many other co-conspirators."
Attorney Todd Leventhal, who represents one of the 10 defendants who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, shares Roger's view.
"The investigation is still on target," Leventhal said Wednesday. "I don't believe her death is going to change the focus of where they're going. They're still moving forward."
Both Roger and Leventhal said prosecutors never expected to strike a deal with Quon and use her as a witness, so they don't have to worry about losing her testimony as the investigation proceeds.
Leventhal said his client is "ready, able and willing" to fulfill her obligations to the government in the aftermath of Quon's death, and he thinks the other nine defendants will, too.
Lawyers involved in a new round of plea negotiations don't expect any setbacks in their dealings with prosecutors.
Justice Department lawyers from Washington, D.C., intend to name close to 20 new defendants soon in one charging document in federal court, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported.
A list viewed by the Review-Journal of those agreeing to plead guilty includes a lawyer, former homeowners association board members, straw buyers and community management employees.
Negotiations are continuing, and the list of defendants could grow before prosecutors are ready to file the group plea agreement in court.
After the deal is finalized, prosecutors expect to go to a federal grand jury to build cases against the bigger players in the homeowners association scheme.
Prosecutors have alleged that the scheme involved stacking association boards with friendly members who would hand out legal work and construction defect contracts at the expense of the associations and their homeowners.
The co-conspirators would find "straw purchasers" to buy condominiums at various developments and get them to run for seats on the boards.
Indicting Quon, 51, would have been a coup for prosecutors. She once was considered a leader and pioneer in the field of construction defect litigation, and she made millions winning judgments against local developers. At the same time, she became popular with the public, offering legal advice in a column for the Review-Journal and hosting two legal advice shows on cable television.
But even without her as a target, prosecutors have plenty of other big players to pursue in the takeover scheme, including Leon Benzer, a former construction company boss who prosecutors allege worked hand in hand with Quon at the homeowners associations. Judges, lawyers and former police officers also remain targets of the federal investigation.
Quon's death, meanwhile, remains a mystery but not necessarily a surprise to investigators who have been dogging her for more than three years.
Henderson police said Wednesday that they have not ruled out suicide.
"We are still investigating the cause and manner of her death," spokesman Keith Paul said. "We have not ruled out whether it was a suicide."
Paul said Quon's death also could have been accidental or a result of "any number of causes."
"At this point," he added, "there are no indications that foul play was involved."
The Clark County coroner's office will make the final determination in about six to eight weeks after it receives a toxicology report.
An autopsy was performed on Quon's body Wednesday, officials said.
Her body was discovered by a family member Tuesday afternoon in the bathtub of her condominium at The District in Henderson.
Paul would not say whether drugs or a suicide note were found at the death scene, but sources told the Review-Journal that alcohol might have played a role in her death. One source said she may have been drinking and passed out in the bathtub.
Quon had maintained that she never tried to kill herself, but suicide remains the unofficial theory, so far, among law enforcement authorities who have investigated her.
"The circumstances surrounding her death are eerily similar to what we believe to be a prior suicide attempt," Roger said. "In both cases, it appears she was in the bathtub, and in both cases at a minimum alcohol appears to have been involved."
Roger's office charged Quon and her boyfriend, former Metropolitan Police Department officer William Ronald Webb, 43, in an arson scheme that stemmed from a suspicious fire at her Rhodes Ranch home in October 2010.
County prosecutors contended that Quon set fire to the house in a botched suicide attempt to escape the pressure of the federal investigation.
Webb's older brother had found her unconscious on a downstairs sofa in the house. She later acknowledged that she had taken sleeping pills and drank a high-alcohol energy drink and had spent time in her bathtub before she was found on the sofa.
Contact reporter Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135.