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Henderson OKs land deal with developer convicted of tax fraud

The Henderson City Council on Tuesday approved a land deal with a developer who was convicted of tax fraud more than a decade ago.

The nearly $27.4 million deal with PEGH Investments will bring a multiphase development to west Henderson, including more than 2.3 million square feet for use by Oxnard, California-based Haas Automation, which bills itself as one of the world’s largest machine tool builders.

Gene Haas, majority owner of PEGH Investments and owner of Haas Automation, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for tax fraud in 2007 after pleading guilty to one out of 11 charges against him, according to the Ventura County Star.

The council voted 3-1 to approve the proposal, with Councilman John Marz as the lone vote against the development. Councilman Dan Stewart abstained.

“We’re very fortunate to have such wonderful talent in our community, but I think we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here that I think we can’t ignore,” Mayor Debra March said at the meeting.

A 52-page indictment against Haas accused him of tax fraud and intimidating witnesses and a federal agent, The New York Times reported in 2006.

Haas paid about $75 million in restitution and fines in connection with the case, according to the Ventura County newspaper. He was to be released from prison in May 2009 after serving 16 months, the newspaper reported.

Haas’ criminal record did not come up during the City Council meeting. City spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said after the meeting that Haas’ criminal past did not factor into the council’s decision.

The multiuse development will be on land south of the intersection of Volunteer Boulevard and Via Inspirada. Henderson will not benefit from the sale of the land, which it controls for development only. Money from the sale will go back to the federal government.

“(The Haas Automation people) support us, they support us with educating our engineering students, so it’s almost like a dream come true to have them even think about coming here,” UNLV machine shop director Terry Kell told council members.

The proposal also received a letter of support from Raiders President Marc Badain.

Haas co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with former NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. According to Stewart-Haas Racing’s website, Haas has donated nearly $25 million to organizations since his nonprofit Gene Haas Foundation was established in 1999.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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