Retired police lieutenant, wife, admit guilt in cafe scheme

Retired Las Vegas police Lt. Benjamin Kim and his wife, Lisa Kim, have agreed to plead guilty in a scheme to fraudulently obtain a bank loan for the Courthouse Cafe, once a popular restaurant at the Regional Justice Center.

The Kims, who are obtaining a divorce, are to enter guilty pleas to one federal count of misprision of felony “for their concealment of an attempt to commit bank fraud,” according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors that were unsealed on Friday.

“The defendants acted together and with each other in the same series of acts or transactions in order to misrepresent the Cafe’s finances to the bank in order to obtain the loan,” Justice Department lawyer Mary Ann McCarthy wrote. “The defendants failed to alert law enforcement to the conspiracy and did an affirmative act to conceal the crime.”

The case is a spinoff of the far-reaching federal investigation into fraud and corruption at Las Vegas Valley homeowners associations and is being handled by the same Justice Department lawyers from Washington, D.C. McCarthy is with the department’s Fraud Section.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal had previously reported that Lisa Kim, who ran Platinum Community Services, a homeowners association management company, also is pleading guilty to a separate charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in the homeowners association investigation.

She is among 14 new defendants in the investigation set to enter guilty pleas on May 31 before U.S. District Judge James Mahan. Her community management firm was raided in September 2008.

Mahan on Friday issued an order consolidating the Courthouse Cafe case, which was secretly filed last month, with the homeowners association case, allowing the Kims to plead guilty to the misprision of felony charges on May 31. Both are cooperating with prosecutors.

Mahan has ordered all of the new federal cases unsealed, but the plea agreements won’t be made public until the defendants enter their pleas in court .

Lisa Kim’s lawyer, Charles Kelly, declined comment Friday. Ben Kim’s lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender William Carrico, could not be reached.

Ben Kim, who retired from the Metropolitan Police Department in 2010, was a partner in the Courthouse Cafe, with former construction company owner Leon Benzer and the late Las Vegas lawyer David Amesbury, who was found dead at his brother’s property in Northern California on March 25 of an apparent hanging.

Amesbury, 57, pleaded guilty in the homeowners investigation, and in the bank fraud scheme, in October. Benzer remains a target of the Justice Department lawyers.

Federal authorities allege that Benzer and the late construction defects attorney Nancy Quon pulled the strings in a massive homeowners association scheme that involved taking over a dozen associations and steering legal and construction contracts to favored firms.

Quon, 51, who was not charged in the federal investigation, was found dead in the bathtub of her Henderson condo on March 20. Police don’t suspect foul play.

The three partners in the Courthouse Cafe had a falling out as pressure mounted in the investigation, and in January 2011, their county-approved restaurant rights were assigned to the Capriotti’s sandwich shop chain. Ben Kim and Benzer are locked in civil litigation over what is left of their company.

In his plea agreement, Amesbury admitted scheming to commit bank fraud while seeking refinancing for the cafe.

The scheme, which occurred from October 2008 through July 2009, involved striking a secret deal to let a businessman identified as “S.K.” handle the daily operations of the cafe without informing the county or the bank, according to court documents in Amesbury’s case.

The businessman paid Amesbury and his partners $8,000 a month and kept any additional profits from the courthouse operation, the documents said.

Amesbury’s wife, former Chief Deputy District Attorney Victoria Villegas, has attracted scrutiny from federal prosecutors but has not been charged. Villegas was fired from the district attorney’s office earlier this year.

Contact Jeff German at or 702-380-8135.

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