Leon Benzer, the man accused of being the mastermind of a massive scheme to take over homeowners associations, pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday to tax evasion charges.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach allowed Benzer to remain free on his own recognizance while he awaits an Aug. 19 trial.
Benzer, 46, once a wealthy construction company boss, told Ferenbach he could not afford a defense lawyer, and Ferenbach appointed Daniel Albregts to represent him.
Afterward, Benzer and Albregts, who also represents Benzer in the HOA criminal case, declined comment.
Benzer was accused in a two-count federal indictment last month of evading roughly $1.2 million in personal and company taxes. The indictment alleges he failed to pay the Internal Revenue Service $459,204 in personal taxes owed between 2001 and 2005 and $705,982 in employment and unemployment taxes between 2003 and 2004.
The charges relate directly to allegations that Benzer had a leading role in the scheme to take over homeowners associations across the valley between 2003 and 2009.
Benzer used some of the $7.2 million in construction defect funds his company, Silver Lining Construction, received from the Vistana homeowners association for his personal use, the indictment alleges.
Benzer and 10 others were indicted in January in the Justice Department’s final push to charge conspirators in the homeowners association corruption scheme. They are to stand trial March 3.
A total of 29 defendants have been convicted in the long-running investigation. Most of the defendants are cooperating.
In all, 11 homeowners associations were swindled out of millions of dollars in the scheme, prosecutors have alleged.
Benzer and the late construction defects lawyer Nancy Quon are alleged to have pulled the strings in the scheme. Quon, 51, committed suicide in March 2012 under the weight of the investigation. She was not charged at the time.
Straw buyers were elected to the association boards to help Benzer and Quon obtain lucrative legal and construction contracts, according to prosecutors.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.