It’s not happening only in Sin City, but it’s not altogether surprising that Las Vegas is a town ripe for the kind of corruption spearheaded by a “businessman” whose strategies include beating up people’s kids and buying out lawyers and board members of Home Owners Associations. If Vito Corleone was hesitant about straying from traditional mafia values into drug trafficking, he would probably find Leon Benzer’s venture into real estate mafia nothing short of bizarre. One of Benzer’s “consiglieres” seems to be in for it, too, as criminal accusations are flying left and right, and crooked Las Vegas business planning attorney Keith Gregory’s implications in the scheme are coming back to bite him.
Benzer’s complicated plan involved propping up HOA board members all over the valley, and through “bribery, intimidation, rigged elections, secret meetings and payoffs,” nearly succeeded in the massive scheme “to take over Las Vegas homeowners associations.” But why HOAs, Corleone would likely wonder? Most recently, Benzer and his crew could provide the Godfather with 7 million reasons, and that’s just the payoff of one deal. For a Las Vegas business planning attorney with little sense of integrity, weighing such payoffs against the sleazy effort involved might produce a “sure, let’s just bend the law a little bit,” especially when considering his cut of the $7 million, but events unfolded another way.
Like all reigns-of-terror, fear can only entice submission for so long, and more than one of Benzer’s associates has come forward to expose the twisted underground scheme, even in the face of threats against their families, some of which Benzer’s muscle managed to carry out. The massive takeover conspiracy, Benzer’s defectors elaborated, included partnerships with a Las Vegas business planning attorney who was a puppet for Benzer, and a construction company Benzer owned. He “planned to pack HOA boards and award construction defect litigation contracts” to the firm he controlled. Then once litigation was settled, “the Benzer-controlled boards would hire Silver Lining Construction to do the repairs,” and Benzer benefitted at every step of the way.
Vito Corleone would be impressed.
But we all know how these stories ultimately end, despite the drama and action in the middle. When one defector brought the case to the FBI and along with the Las Vegas police, they began prosecuting Benzer’s people across the board, his scheme began to unravel, one allegiance at a time. This kind of quick, “easy” money with inconceivable returns just isn’t smart, a reputable Las Vegas business planning attorney like Karl Shelton would tell you. Not only is it illegal in and of itself, but the brute-force-and-fear tactics aren’t sustainable, as anyone who has watched any of the Godfather Trilogy would know. Maybe Benzer missed out on that moral lesson in the films, only paying attention to the glamor of illicit power. Or maybe he didn’t have a VCR growing up, and his poverty fueled his intractable and recklessly violent ambition. In any case, his story is ending as we expect to find the anti-heroes of most mafia tales: alone, friendless, and —- out of luck.