Suspended lawyer is accused of stealing $1M from client settlements
Posted Jan 15, 2014 4:10 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
A suspended Nevada lawyer was criminally charged Tuesday with stealing more than $1 million from client settlements, primarily in personal injury cases.
Barry Levinson faces four felony theft counts under an amended state-court complaint filed Tuesday. It says the money was taken between 2007 and 2012, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Levinson's law license was suspended by the state supreme court in September 2012.
“In most cases, clients never received any of the settlement money,” detective Robert Whiteley wrote in a Las Vegas city police report obtained by the Las Vegas Sun. “Levinson used deceitful tactics such as not informing a client of a settlement or forging signatures of clients on settlement forms and check endorsements.”
Levinson also used funds from later clients to pay earlier clients, delaying the collapse of the alleged scheme, authorities said. It came to light when clients complained to the state bar, which eventually contacted police, according to the newspaper.
The amended complaint in the state-court case comes a year after a federal grand jury indictment of Levinson in an apparently unrelated case. It accused Levinson, along with 10 other defendants, including attorney Keith Gregory, of having taken over Las Vegas Valley homeowner associations and operated them for their own benefit, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported at the time.
All the defendants in the federal case were charged with conspiracy and mail fraud. More than a dozen other defendants previously took pleas in the case. Construction defects lawyer Nancy Quon—who was found dead in the bathtub of her home in 2012—wasn't charged, but she was accused by the feds of having masterminded the claimed conspiracy along with indicted defendant Leon Benzer, the former owner of the Silver Lining Construction Company.
Gregory and Levinson served as general counsels to some of the 11 HOA boards allegedly taken over by defendants in the case through dirty tactics, including election-rigging. Benzer and Quon are accused of operating the scheme to obtain pricey community management, construction and legal contracts, the newspaper explains.
It appears that Levinson is negotiating with prosecutors in both the state and federal cases, the Review-Journal says. "Mr. Levinson has some issues that he needs to get cleaned up, and he is taking steps to do that,” his lawyer, Brent Bryson, told the newspaper after a Tuesday court hearing.
A Las Vegas Review-Journal article published last year provided Benzer's views and said a trial in the case was then scheduled to begin in March of 2014.
Another Review-Journal article last year says the feds are trying to get some $25 million in restitution from 40 defendants in the case.
ABAJournal.com (March 2012): "2 Lawyers Targeted in Nev. Homeowner Association Fraud Probe Are Found Dead Within a Week"
ABAJournal.com (May 2012): "3 More Lawyers Are Charged in Las Vegas Homeowner Association Fraud Case"
ABAJournal.com (Jan. 2013): "Two lawyers among 11 federally indicted re massive alleged HOA corruption scheme"
ABAJournal.com (Jan. 2013): "Indictment: Now-deceased lawyer helped funnel $8M through secret accounts to win HOA contracts"