|By Eli Segall, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 26, 2012--A finance executive with Turnberry West Realty and an associate have been accused of embezzling almost $6 million from the Las Vegas developer.
Hope Ippoliti, western regional controller at Turnberry West, and associate Rocco Lazazzaro have been charged with 24 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Lazazzaro also was accused of trying to extort money from the company and was charged with one count of attempted interference with commerce by threats and violence, prosecutors said.
Ippoliti is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert J. Johnston today in Las Vegas.
Lazazzaro appeared before a federal magistrate judge Friday and was detained pending trial, according to the office of Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. attorney for the District of Nevada.
Ippoliti and Lazazzaro face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each fraud count. Lazazzaro also faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the extortion count.
Efforts to reach them or their attorneys for comment were not immediately successful.
The 51-year-old Ippoliti and 54-year-old Lazazzaro, both of Las Vegas, are accused of committing the fraud between May 2007 and January 2012.
According to prosecutors, Ippoliti transferred company funds from Nevada to Florida under the guise that they were legitimate business expenses. She then withdrew the funds by writing checks to herself, to Lazazzaro or to cash, authorities said.
Lazazzaro also allegedly tried to use "force, violence and fear" to extort more money from Turnberry in February, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors say Turnberry West Realty is a subsidiary of Florida-based Turnberry Associates LLC. A spokesperson for Turnberry Associates could not immediately be reached for comment.
In Las Vegas, Turnberry executives developed the 97-acre Town Square retail and office complex, which it lost to foreclosure last year, and the proposed $2.9 billion, 3,815-room Fontainebleau Las Vegas hotel-casino on the Strip. Construction on that project halted in 2009, and investor Carl Icahn acquired the property for $148 million. It remains unfinished.
Turnberry also developed The Residences, a three-tower condominium hotel complex at the MGM Grand, and Turnberry Place, four 40-story luxury condo towers near the Strip. The company also built Turnberry Towers, two 45-story condo towers about a half-mile from Turnberry Place.
(c)2012 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)
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