WASHINGTON – A Las Vegas woman pleaded guilty today for her role in a scheme to fraudulently gain control of condominium homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in the Las Vegas area so that the HOAs would direct business to a certain law firm and construction company, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Kevin Favreau of the FBI Las Vegas Field Office, Sheriff Doug Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Special Agent in Charge Paul Camacho of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Denise Keser, 44, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro in the District of Nevada to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Keser is the tenth person to plead guilty in connection with the scheme to defraud HOAs in the Las Vegas area.
Keser admitted that from approximately April 2006 through at least February 2007, she participated in a scheme to control various HOA boards of directors so that the HOA boards would award the handling of construction-related lawsuits and remedial construction contracts to a law firm and construction company designated by Keser’s co-conspirators.
According to plea documents, in order to accomplish this scheme, Keser’s co-conspirators acted as straw purchasers of properties in numerous Nevada HOA communities. Keser admitted that she was aware that co-conspirators managed and operated the payments associated with maintaining the straw properties by running a so-called “Bill Pay Program,” by which co-conspirators funded the properties at the direction of a co-conspirator. Many of the payments were wired from California to Nevada.
According to plea documents, the straw purchasers and individuals who acquired a transferred interest in properties agreed to run for election to the respective HOA boards. These co-conspirators were paid in cash, check or promised things of value for their participation, all of which resulted in a personal financial benefit to the co-conspirators.
Keser admitted that she was aware that her co-conspirators employed deceitful tactics to ensure they would win HOA board elections. Keser observed her co-conspirators using mailing lists to mail voting ballots to homeowners who would vote for certain co-conspirators. Keser and her co-conspirators, as instructed by another co-conspirator, used Keser’s position as property manager at the Chateau Nouveau condominium complex to send emails to homeowners that were intended to smear the reputation of bona fide board members.
According to plea documents, once elected to the board of directors, co-conspirator board members would meet with other co-conspirators in order to manipulate board votes, including the selection of property managers, contractors and general counsel for the HOA and attorneys to represent the HOA. Keser and other co-conspirator property managers were paid in cash, check or things of value for using their positions to gain inside information and provide it to co-conspirators in furtherance of their efforts to obtain remediation and construction defect repair and construction defect litigation work on behalf of the HOAs. Keser admitted that she knew that others were paid or received things of value by or on behalf of their co-conspirators for their assistance in purchasing properties, obtaining HOA membership status and rigging elections.
Keser admitted that in approximately September 2006, she agreed to open a new property management company, which would be owned and controlled by co-conspirators, for the purpose of managing the HOA board at Chateau Nouveau and other condominium complexes. As compensation for her participation in the conspiracy, Keser was given a weekly salary, among other things, from her co-conspirators. Keser admitted that she concealed from the bona fide homeowners the true nature of her relationship, and that of the property management company that she headed, with her co-conspirators.
Keser’s sentencing is scheduled for July 26, 2012. The maximum sentence for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud is 30 years in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Charles La Bella and Trial Attorneys Nicole H. Sprinzen and Mary Ann McCarthy of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Criminal Intelligence Section.
This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.gov .