Nancy Quon found dead in bathtub

Nancy Quon, the embattled construction defects attorney who was a key target of a federal investigation into fraud and corruption at Las Vegas Valley homeowners associations, was found dead Tuesday.

Keith Paul, a spokesman for the Henderson Police Department, said a family member had discovered Quon’s body in the bathtub of her condominium at The District in Henderson.

Police were called to the scene about 1:40 p.m., he said.

Paul said no foul play is suspected, but police are conducting a death investigation. He would not provide details of the death scene and would not discuss whether a suicide note was found.

Sources said alcohol may have played a role in Quon’s death. One source said she had been drinking in the bathtub and may have passed out.

Assistant Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said his office won’t have a cause of death for six to eight weeks, until a toxicology report is done.

The coroner took the body away about 6 p.m.

Thomas Pitaro, the criminal defense attorney who had been helping Quon battle authorities on several fronts, said he was saddened to hear of her death.

"My heart goes out to her family," he said. "It’s very sad."

Investigators involved in the federal homeowners association probe were among the law enforcement authorities who showed up at the death scene. Quon owned a condominium above the shops at The District, a business-residential mall across from the Green Valley Ranch Resort.

Earlier this year, a Clark County district judge dismissed an indictment against Quon, 51, and her boyfriend, former Las Vegas police officer William Ronald Webb, 43, charging the couple in an arson scheme.

Police had alleged that Quon, a high-profile lawyer who made millions as a pioneer in the field of construction defect law, set fire to her Rhodes Ranch home in October 2010 in a botched suicide attempt to escape the pressure of the federal investigation.

Two days before the fire, Quon was described as "detached and despondent" when she provided handwriting samples to local and federal investigators probing the homeowners associations.

Quon, who acknowledged taking sleeping pills and a high-alcohol energy drink before the fire, was rescued from the smoke-filled home by Webb’s older brother, Daniel, who found her unconscious on a downstairs sofa.

Authorities said William Webb had arranged to be out of town during the fire.

Paramedics who revived Quon told a county grand jury that they think she suffered a "narcotic overdose." Fire investigators testified that their suspicions were raised because the fire started in two separate places in Quon’s upstairs master bedroom.

Investigators suspected Quon participated in another drug suicide plot days after the fire when Webb obtained gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, a club drug known as GHB, from undercover Las Vegas detectives. Both Webb and Quon were charged in the drug deal in a separate case, which was not dismissed.

County prosecutors alleged that Quon had bankrolled the deal and was to take the GHB, which she thought would be undetectable in her system.

Quon had maintained that she didn’t set her home on fire and never tried to kill herself, as the pressure and publicity of the federal investigation mounted.

"I think, to me, maybe that was the most disconcerting part about the newspaper stories that they would indicate that I was somehow suicidal, or … that I would consider taking my own life," Quon told Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith in a December 2010 interview.

"And anyone who knows me knows that that’s just not my personality. I’m a fighter. My practice was taking on huge developers and insurance companies, and they just don’t roll over. It’s always a fight."

The investigation, spearheaded by the Justice Department’s Fraud Section in Washington, D.C., has focused on a massive scheme to take over homeowners associations.

So far, 10 defendants have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate against higher-level players in the scheme. Quon and former construction boss Leon Benzer, with judges, lawyers and former police officers, were considered the top targets.

The Review-Journal reported March 2 that Justice Department lawyers from Washington intend to name close to 20 new defendants in one charging document in federal court in the coming weeks.

A list viewed by the newspaper 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.

Quon faced more pressure last week, when she was among those named in a class-action lawsuit filed in District Court over the homeowners association takeover scheme.

Federal 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. The straw buyers would be elected through classic dirty campaign tactics that included forging ballots and digging up dirt on candidates not supported by the co-conspirators.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Contact Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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