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"Ex-HOA board member is ninth to enter plea deal in federal case"
(Originally published in the Las Vegas Review Journal)
Another former homeowners association board member pleaded guilty Wednesday in the high-profile federal investigation into fraud and corruption at Las Vegas Valley associations.
Daniel Solomon, 39, a Las Vegas man who served on the board of the southwest valley's Vistana condominium complex, is the ninth defendant to strike a deal with the government in the far-reaching investigation, which has targeted lawyers, judges and former police officers.
Solomon pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and will appear before Senior U.S. District Judge Lloyd George on Feb. 23 for sentencing.
In his plea agreement, Solomon admitted to playing a role in the scheme to take control of homeowners association boards with members who pushed for construction defect lawsuits against builders. A dozen homeowners associations have been dragged into the investigation.
Solomon admitted that he became a "straw purchaser" of a Vistana condominium so that he could get elected to the board and steer business to his co-conspirators. His participation in the scheme took place from January 2006 through February 2009.
Solomon also admitted that, while a member of the Vistana board, he participated in several votes that benefited his co-conspirators.
In one of those votes, the board approved a $19 million construction defect settlement, and in another one it awarded the repair work. The $19 million settlement was obtained by construction defects lawyer Nancy Quon, who is believed to be one of the unnamed co-conspirators described in court documents in the case. The repairs were done by Silver Lining Construction and its former owner, Leon Benzer, two of the other unnamed co-conspirators.
Neither Quon nor Benzer has been charged in the investigation but are key targets. Quon is facing an array of local criminal charges, including arson and insurance fraud, stemming from a suspicious fire last year at her Rhodes Ranch home. Prosecutors have alleged she set the fire in a botched suicide plot to escape the pressure of the federal investigation. She has denied the allegations.
The offices of both Quon and Benzer were among those searched in a September 2008 FBI-police raid in the investigation. IRS Criminal Investigation in Las Vegas also has been participating in the massive probe.
When George asked Solomon in court Wednesday how he pleaded to the federal conspiracy charge, Solomon responded, "Guilty, your honor."
Solomon agreed to pay up to $155,229 in restitution to the lenders who financed the condominium he bought with the help of his co-conspirators.
Afterward, Solomon, who was allowed to remain free on his own recognizance, declined to comment.
His lawyer, Jack Buchanan, said Solomon looked forward to his sentencing, when he can explain his "minimal level of culpability" in the scheme.
[Continue Reading www.reviewjournal.com]
"Mayweather's Uncle Agrees to Plea Deal"
(Originally published in the Las Vegas Review Journal)
The uncle and head trainer of champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. struck a deal with prosecutors that will keep him out of the Las Vegas jail four days before he was to go to trial in his 19-month-old battery case.
Defense attorney Jack Buchanan said Roger Mayweather, 49, will plead no contest today to two misdemeanor counts of battery.
According to the plea deal, Mayweather will be placed on informal probation, pay a $1,000 fine, attend domestic violence counseling and perform 50 hours of community service.
"We're happy with the resolution. He's looking forward to putting this behind him and getting back to training the best fighter in the world," Buchanan said.
Mayweather, a former professional boxer, originally was charged with two felony battery counts stemming from an Aug. 2, 2009, incident in which he is accused of choking a former female trainee.
Authorities said Mayweather choked and punched 26-year-old fighter Melissa St. Vil at her apartment in the 700 block of Rock Springs Drive, near Rainbow Boulevard and Washington Avenue.
Mayweather owned the property and rented it to a man who let St. Vil live there.
St. Vil had trained under Roger Mayweather until May 2009, when she left for a new trainer. Authorities say he was upset that she was still living at his property and confronted her, leading to a physical altercation.
Court documents show that Mayweather entered the apartment and prevented St. Vil from going to her bedroom. She tried to push past him, but he grabbed her, forced her into the living room and punched her several times in the ribs.
A Las Vegas police officer arrived at the apartment and found Mayweather with his arms wrapped around the woman, according to court documents. A coercion charge against Mayweather was dropped early in the case.
Mayweather trains his nephew, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who has had his own slew of legal troubles.
"Teacher gets 90 days in jail in death of tourist"
(Originally published in the Las Vegas Review Journal)
A Florida teacher was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation for the death of a man he punched at a Strip casino in 2011.
Benjamin Hawkins in November was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after the death of John Massie.
Hawkins, who is black, testified at the trial he was defending himself when he struck Massie at O’Shea’s casino July 6, 2011, after he perceived that Massie, a 46-year-old white man from Utah, had made race-based comments.
Both men were on vacation.
After an emotional 45-minute sentencing hearing that included testimony from three of Massie’s five children, Judge Valerie Adair ordered Hawkins to serve three months for what she called “a horrible tragedy” that could have been avoided.
Prosecutors were seeking 19 to 48 months in prison.
Before being sentenced, Hawkins apologized to Massie’s family and said, “I in no way wanted to harm anyone.”
Adair ordered Hawkins to take anger management counseling and pay $5,000 in restitution after his sentence.
After the hearing, Hawkins’ lawyer, Jack Buchanan, said he was disappointed his client would have to serve jail time, “but he’ll get through it.”
Security footage of the incident showed Massie and Hawkins exchanging words outside an O’Shea’s bathroom.
As Hawkins walked away, a drunk Massie took about three steps toward Hawkins’ back. Hawkins turned swiftly and threw a right-handed punch that landed on the left side of Massie’s face. The back of Massie’s head slammed into the floor, causing his death.
The confrontation began in the bathroom where Massie had made comments to Hawkins about being “a black guy in a yellow shirt.” Hawkins said he felt threatened by the comments about his race.
Before handing down the sentence, Adair noted that Hawkins, the father of a 2-year-old girl, had no criminal history. Also, the judge received 72 letters of support vouching for the teacher as a respected family man.
Adair said she grieved for Massie’s family and said his comments to Hawkins were “innocent” and “grossly misinterpreted.”
Massie’s 16-year-old son, James, testified at the hearing that his world was turned upside down by his father’s death, including having to move to Texas to live with his mother.
“He always swore he’d be there for me when I needed him, but now he’s gone and I can’t really think of anyone I need more,” James said.
"Lawyer James "Bucky" Buchanan remembered as larger than life"
(Originally published in the Las Vegas Sun)
Funerals are typically somber, reverent affairs.
But James “Bucky” Buchanan was not typically somber or reverent, and neither was his funeral held Friday afternoon at Palm Mortuary, 1325 N. Main St.
Buchanan, 74, whose list of clients ran the gamut — from the famous to the penniless — died Saturday evening after suffering a medical episode while driving his Ferrari near his home on Linden Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
His funeral, though peppered with tears, was punctuated with laughter as family members, friends and colleagues recounted memories of the man everyone calls Bucky, whose sharp wit and unconventional style made him larger than life and seared him into the history of Las Vegas.
Clark County courts were effectively closed for afternoon business as the legal community gathered to bid farewell to one of its legends.
At the start of the service, state Sen. Dennis Nolan played the bagpipes as he led a dozen or so robed judges down the aisle to the front of the chapel.
The pews were packed with at least 200 mourners; those who couldn’t get a seat lined the walls or watched remotely in an overflow room — proving that even in death, Bucky Buchanan could command attention.
While Buchanan had his share of famous clients, he also represented a host of people — from hookers to thieves the homeless — who couldn’t, in truth, afford his services but needed him, said his wife, Gianna.
“Bucky had greatness in his heart,” she said. “Being an honorable man was the way he lived his life.”
Judge Nancy Oesterle addressed the crowd wearing a bright blue judges robe, saying that’s what Bucky, who slyly got away with calling her “princess” as a reference to her royal colored robe on more than one occasion, would have wanted.
“My courtroom will never be the same without Bucky,” she said. “He was a kind character and totally irreplaceable.” And as a lawyer, he was “a force to be reckoned with.”
But Buchanan wasn’t just a lawyer renowned in the Las Vegas community. He was a devoted father and grandfather and a loving husband.
He also had a heart for charity, including a soft spot for the Toys for Tots program. He served on the Board of Regents and left a mark on UNLV, whose swimming pool, the Buchanan Natatorium, is named for him.
Buchanan was also a big game hunter immensely proud of the trophies, which included animals like elephants, water buffalo and big cats, mounted on the wall of his home on Sunrise Mountain.
Buchanan’s love of hunting was a recurrent theme in the stories told about him Friday afternoon. As was a tale about the time when Buchanan, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in the same class as Arizona Sen. John McCain, sunk a ship in the Chesapeake Bay.
He was reprimanded but still graduated and served time in the Air Force. He was given military honors at his funeral.
Buchanan had a background in engineering and worked with nuclear weapons in Albuquerque. As a young man, he fell in love with the West and went on to study law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
His legal career began in Las Vegas, where in 1965 he took a job in the District Attorney’s Office. He opened his criminal defense practice five years later.
Attorney and friend Osvaldo Fumo said that when he learned Buchanan had died, “my first thought was for a guy who was always late for court, God, you took him away too quickly.”
Buchanan was a man who lived life on his own terms and had a “wicked sense of humor,” he said.
Attorney John Momot, whose lengthy legal resume includes the defense of Sandy Murphy in the Ted Binion murder trial, called Buchanan a legendary man.
“He had a particular flair, a style, a smile and a swagger,” he said.
Buchanan represented a host of clients of note: He defended David Mattsen, who was eventually acquitted of attempting to steal millions in cash from Binion’s vault in Pahrump; in 2003 and 2004, he represented Steven Gazlay, then a member of the 311 Boyz (a gang made up of teens from middle- and upper-middle class homes in northwest Las Vegas) accused and eventually convicted of a felony in a crowbar attack on a fellow teen.
He recently represented Roger Mayweather, the uncle and trainer for champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., on felony coercion and battery-strangulation charges.
His son-in-law, Joseph Wykes, gave the eulogy. He cited a phrase uttered by Mattsen after his acquittal: “I believe in God and Buchanan.”
Buchanan is survived by his wife, Gianna, whom he married in 2001, two grown sons, twin daughters and several grandchildren.
“I admired Bucky so much. I was so proud of him,” Gianna Buchanan said. “To me, he was just like a hero. And while nobody’s perfect, to me, he was perfect.”
Jack Buchanan, who’s taking the reins at his father’s firm, thanked everyone profusely for coming to the ceremony. He also had a message for a chosen few of them:
“I know there are a lot of D.A.s here and if they think that their jobs got a lot easier, then think again,” he said, earning him a round of applause.
“Behind the big Vegas personality … he was the best dad,” he said.