Photo: Asian American Group Las Vegas/KNPR
A sweeping federal investigation into a Las Vegas homeowners association scheme has turned deadly this week, with two key players found dead in suspected suicides. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that attorney David Amesbury, who was cooperating with a federal investigation into fraud and corruption at homeowners associations, was found dead in California this weekend. His death is believed to be a suicide.
Amesbury was the first of 10 people to have pleaded guilty in the HOA scheme, which investigators say involved stacking HOA boards with favourable candidates who then pushed construction defect lawsuits to attorneys and contractors involved in the conspiracy.
Amesbury is the second attorney involved in the scandal to turn up dead this week. KSNV reports that Nancy Quon was found dead in a bathtub at her Las Vegas condo last Wednesday, and investigators have not ruled out suicide.
According to the LVRJ, Quon was a major target of the federal criminal investigation, and both she and Amesbury had been named as defendants in a class-action civil lawsuit against key players in the scheme to take over Las Vegas HOAs.
Prosecutors have alleged that the scheme involved stacking homeowners 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.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants “conspired to enrich themselves by fraudulently slandering various class members to win HOA board elections and then further conspiring to vote in favour of litigating various construction defect lawsuits.
The two deaths this week bring the body count in the scandal up to three. Christopher Van Cleef, a police officer whose name surfaced in the initial investigation, killed himself after the FBI and Las Vegas police conducted a raid in September 2008.
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