A federal grand jury in Nevada yesterday returned an indictment against a former construction company owner for evading federal income and employment taxes, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Richard Weber, FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge William C. Woerner of the Las Vegas Field Office, and Sheriff Doug Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Leon Benzer, 46, of Las Vegas, was charged in U.S. District Court in the District of Nevada with two counts of tax evasion.
In January 2013, Benzer was indicted in a related case on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. According to court documents, from approximately August 2003 through February 2009, Benzer orchestrated a scheme to direct construction defect litigation and repairs at condominium complexes to a conspiring law firm and Benzer’s construction company, Silver Lining Construction (SLC). As a result of this scheme, the indictment alleges that SLC was awarded a contract worth over $7 million for work at the Vistana Homeowner’s Association (Vistana HOA) in Las Vegas. The case is pending.
According to the indictment, in August 2006, Benzer filed five years’ worth of personal tax forms and business tax returns without any payments accompanying those returns. As of April 2007, Benzer had allegedly failed to pay his personal tax liability of approximately $459,000 and SLC’s employment tax liability of approximately $687,000 and unemployment tax liability of approximately $18,000. In May 2007, the IRS issued a notice of intent to file a levy; Benzer subsequently appealed this process and indicated that he wanted to enter into an “offer-in-compromise” with the IRS to pay a portion of what was owed in full satisfaction of all his tax liabilities. According to the indictment, during this offer-in-compromise process, the IRS requested detailed financial information from Benzer.
Between March 2005 and January 2008, the indictment alleges that Benzer and SLC received over $7 million from the Vistana HOA contract, including a wire transfer of over $1 million on September 21, 2007, to a personal U.S. Bank account that Benzer opened in August 2007. The indictment alleges that when Benzer filed certain IRS forms related to the offer-in-compromise process on September 25, 2007, he failed to disclose this personal U.S. Bank account or the assets contained in it.
The maximum prison sentence for each count of tax evasion is five years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
The charges and allegations against the indicted defendant are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Chief Kathleen McGovern, Deputy Chief Charles La Bella, and Trial Attorney Thomas B.W. Hall of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case is being investigated by IRS-CI, the FBI, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Criminal Intelligence Section.
Yesterday’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions; and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.
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