Key HOA case defendant wins delay in related tax trial

Former construction company boss Leon Benzer, the accused mastermind of a massive scheme to take over homeowners associations, has won a delay in his tax evasion trial.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey this week moved the trial from March 18 to Dec. 2.

The new date means the tax case will follow the long-awaited Oct. 6 trial of Benzer and nine others in the multimillion-dollar HOA takeover scheme, which occurred between 2003 and 2009.

The defendants are facing conspiracy and fraud charges in that case and have been given until the end of the month to strike plea deals with federal prosecutors if they want to avoid standing trial.

Had Benzer stood trial on the tax charges before the HOA conspiracy case, it would have compromised his defense in the bigger HOA case, his lawyer, Daniel Albregts, argued in court papers. The tax case sprung from HOA scheme.

Prosecutors opposed delaying the tax trial, but Dorsey concluded it was necessary to avoid a “miscarriage of justice.”

Benzer, 47, is charged with evading roughly $1.2 million in personal and company taxes stemming from his leading role in the HOA takeover scheme.

According to the federal tax case indictment, Benzer used some of the $7.2 million in construction defect funds his company, Silver Lining Construction, received from the Vistana HOA for personal use. He is accused of filing false financial forms with the Internal Revenue Service to conceal money and assets.

Vistana, in southwest Las Vegas, is one of 11 homeowners associations defrauded in the takeover scheme. More than 40 defendants were charged in the conspiracy to pack HOA boards to gain legal and construction defect contracts. Straw buyers were recruited to purchase condominiums at the developments and then get elected to the boards through bribery and rigged elections.

The long-running investigation became public in September 2008, when FBI agents and Las Vegas police conducted raids across the valley.