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Prosecutors give key HOA player a big break

After many years and countless hours of investigation, this week we learned that federal prosecutors in the massive HOA fraud case are more than vouching for the character of the multimillion-dollar scheme’s No. 2 defendant, Ralph Priola.

They are, in fact, trying hard to keep him out of prison.

In court documents, the Review-Journal reported Thursday, prosecutors are arguing that Priola’s cooperation should earn him a complete pass for his role in facilitating a ripoff of local homeowners associations that landed ringleader Leon Benzer with a nearly 16-year sentence.

It almost makes you feel sorry for Benzer — until you remember that the damage he did to hundreds of local condominium owners will be felt for years to come. Benzer’s no victim — unless he’s starting to have buyer’s remorse for not settling the charge against him in a more timely manner.

But does that mean Priola deserves a penitentiary pass?

Not from this corner.

Prosecutors may argue that the investigation was greatly aided by Priola. That much is pretty obvious.

Conceivably, they might even tell a judge Priola’s assistance was essential to the case, which has netted 40 or so convictions. This was an investigation that ended with almost as many cooperating defendants as defendants. By the time the first charges emerged, defendants were prattling like auctioneers.

But the idea that No. 2 player-turned-government chatterbox Priola doesn’t deserve to sit in prison for even a brief vacation for his role sends the wrong message.

SPORTS BETTING: More trouble for daily fantasy sports fans this week with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s cease-and-desist order against FanDuel and DraftKings.

It’s a multibillion-dollar phenomenon that has enjoyed the support of professional sports leagues and television networks. It’s also obviously sports betting and recently drew the ire of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and state Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

It’s long past time for a vigorous effort in Congress to legalize sports betting nationally.

A DRY HEAT: Did you hear that scientists have discovered an “Earth-like planet” just 230 trillion miles away?

It’s called GJ 1132b, which doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

When scientists say it’s Earth-like, they’re not saying anyone will be planting a flag there any time soon. First, it’s 39 light-years away.

And there’s the temperature challenge. Its coolest point, Nature and USA Today report, is approximately 450 degrees.

In other words, it’s almost as hot as a Las Vegas sidewalk in July.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Remember the venerable Showboat on the lower edge of Fremont Street at the Boulder Highway? Demolished in 2006, the real estate remains barren. But I’ll wager the memories remain of a generation of locals who bowled, watched boxing matches and grazed at the buffet. … The Showboat is gone, but there are signs of business life in the area. One that’s especially intriguing is the PublicUs restaurant at 1126 Fremont Street at Maryland Parkway. … McMullan’s Irish Pub, home of the annual St. Baldrick’s head-shaving fundraiser that has collected more than $1 million for childhood cancer research, recently celebrated its 13th anniversary on Tropicana Avenue.

— Have an item for Bard of the Boulevard? Email comments and contributions to jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.

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