September 13, 2011
Las Vegas Woman Pleads Guilty in Connection with Scheme to Fraudulently Control Condominium Homeowners’ Associations
WASHINGTON – A Las Vegas woman pleaded guilty today for her role in a scheme to fraudulently gain control of condominium homeowners’ associations (HOA) 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 Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Kevin Favreau of the FBI Las Vegas Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Paul Camacho of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Sheriff Doug Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Marcella Triana, 35, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson in the District of Nevada to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
According to the plea agreement, Triana admitted that from at least as early as July 2005 until at least in or about February 2009, 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 Triana’s co-conspirators.
According to plea documents, in order to accomplish the scheme, co-conspirators used straw purchasers to obtain mortgage loans for units within HOA communities. Triana admitted that she agreed to act as a straw purchaser of a property in the Chateau Versailles condominium complex in Las Vegas. Triana admitted that her co-conspirators provided the down payment and monthly payments, including HOA dues and mortgage payments, for the property and were the true owners of the property. She admitted that she signed and submitted a fraudulent loan application and closing documents to a financial institution in order to finance and close on the property on behalf of her co-conspirators. According to plea documents, Triana’s co-conspirators managed and operated the payments associated with maintaining straw properties owned and controlled by co-conspirators by running a so-called “Bill Pay Program,” by which co-conspirators funded the properties through several limited liability companies at the direction of a co-conspirator. Many of the payments were wired from California to Nevada.
Triana also admitted that she agreed to run for election to the HOA board at Chateau Versailles. Once elected to the Chateau Versailles board, Triana breached her statutory fiduciary duty to the homeowners by accepting from her co-conspirators compensation, gratuities and other remuneration that improperly influenced, or reasonably appeared to influence, her decisions, resulting in a conflict of interest. Triana admitted that after being elected to the Chateau Versailles board and accepting payments from her co-conspirators, she voted in a manner directed by and favorable to her co-conspirators, including voting to hire a law firm and construction company designated by her co-conspirators to handle legal and construction work at the condominium.
Triana admitted that she also helped to manipulate the election process at the Park Avenue condominium complex and at other HOA communities to ensure that additional straw purchasers and co-conspirators won positions on the HOA boards and would vote as directed by co-conspirators.
Triana also admitted that she knew that co-conspirators manipulated the election process by creating fake labels and ballots, and supplying homeowner mailing lists to co-conspirators, which were used to create forged ballots for non-voting homeowners. According to plea documents, co-conspirators also used homeowner mailing lists to call out-of-state homeowners in order to gather information about their voting intentions, and to mail forged ballots from California to Las Vegas to make the forged votes for out-of-town homeowners appear to be legitimate.
Triana further admitted that in or about January 2009, after local and federal law enforcement officials executed search warrants at the homes and businesses of several of her co-conspirators, Triana, at the direction of a co-conspirator, further abused her power as a board member at Chateau Versailles by signing two checks on the account of the HOA payable to the co-conspirator. The checks totaled approximately $70,000. According to court documents, this money was used for the purpose of enriching the co-conspirator at the expense of bona fide homeowners.
Triana’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2011. 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, Assistant Chief Michael Bresnick 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.