Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Unbelievable Scenario At A Nonprofit

By Gary Snyder

We usually have problems with them but we seldom think that they are legally amiss. Well… this homeowners association conspiracy is totally filled with intrigue and points to the need to make sure that there are internal controls in place.

Federal prosecutors accuse the co-conspirators of stacking homeowners association boards with members who pushed for construction defect lawsuits against builders. The boards then steered legal and construction repair work to the co-conspirators. Prosecutors intend to name close to 20 new defendants soon in one charging document in federal court. Several that are agreeing to plead guilty include a lawyer, former homeowners association board members, straw buyers and community management employees. One that pleaded guilty is David Amesbury.

Las Vegas attorney Amesbury admitted that between March and September 2008, he was paid a $3,000 kickback by his co-conspirators to help rig board elections at two sites. The scheme involved finding "straw purchasers" to buy condominiums and getting them to run for seats on the boards, prosecutors have alleged. The straw buyers were elected through classic dirty campaign tactics that included forging ballots and digging up dirt on candidates not supported by the co-conspirators. Another attorney and Amesbury's estranged wife, former Chief Deputy District Attorney Victoria Villegas, has also attracted the interest of Justice Department lawyers in the homeowners association investigation. She was fired from the district attorney's office earlier this month.

Amesbury also admitted that he participated in a separate scheme to defraud banks while seeking refinancing for his Cafe, which he operated under a Clark County contract with former construction company boss and another partner, a former Las Vegas police officer. Last November, several weeks after he had pleaded guilty in the homeowners investigation, Amesbury was discovered badly beaten in a gated Henderson (NV) community. He had two broken ribs, and both his kneecaps were shattered. He also had a variety of facial injuries. At one point, the reports said, Amesbury told a nurse he "was beaten up, and he deserved it." This March, David Amesbury was found dead by apparent hanging. There was no evidence of foul play or any suspicious circumstances.

Another major player in the scheme, attorney Nancy Quon, whom prosecutors were looking to indict, was found dead in the bathtub of her condominium on March 20 five days prior to Amesbury’ alleged suicide. Authorities do not suspect foul play.

Two other people who attracted the interest of authorities in the sweeping federal investigation also have died under unusual circumstances. Former Las Vegas police officer shot himself to death a few days after a September 2008 FBI raid in the investigation. A former homeowners association board member died in 2010 of a drug overdose.
Some of the witnesses are concerned about their personal safety. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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