A high-profile federal corruption investigation of homeowners associations in Nevada turned deadly this week when two key defendants in the case were found dead.
David Amesbury, a Las Vegas attorney targeted in the investigation, was found dead of an apparent hanging Sunday in Grass Valley, Calif., according to the Nevada County Chief Deputy Coroner Paul Schmidt. Amesbury was staying at his brother's home. Amesbury's brother could not be reached by ABC News for comment.
"There is no evidence of foul play or suspicion right now but it's still being investigated," Schmidt told ABC News. The death is being looked at as a possible suicide at this time, Schmidt said. Autopsy results will be out in about 10 weeks.
"I know of no specific reason why he would have done this," Frank Cremen, Amesbury's defense lawyer told ABC News. "I know his family doesn't believe it was suicide."
Another figure in the case, Nancy Quon, a construction defect lawyer, was found dead in a bathtub in a Henderson, Nev. condominium on March 20, Keith Paul, a spokesman for the Henderson Police Department told ABC News. Her death is still under investigation.
"Suicide will be one of the considerations along with accidental and medical, but at this time there is no evidence of foul play," Paul said.
The investigation by the U.S. Justice Department alleges Quon and Amesbury were involved in a plan that began in 2008 to take over homeowner association boards and then steer legal and construction contracts to specific firms.
The deaths, one defense attorney told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, are generating a growing sense of anxiety among those named in the federal probe.
"Some of the witnesses are extremely concerned about their well-being and safety," the defense lawyer, who was involved in plea negotiations with the government, told the newspaper. "People are dying here."
Amesbury, 57, reached a plea deal in the investigation on Oct 24. He is one of 10 defendants that have pleaded guilty in the case. Amesbury pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to documents from the U.S. Justice Department.
The Las Vegas attorney received $3,000 from co-conspirators to rig HOA board elections. Residents sent ballots to Amesbury's office where he allowed co-conspirators to count the votes in order to create enough fake ballots for their candidate to win, according to the Justice Department. The co-conspirators elected to the HOA boards used their positions to hire individuals and companies that would result in personal financial benefit for them, according to plea documents.
Sentencing for Amesbury was adjourned until Sept. 21. Amesbury was facing up to 30 years in jail, a million dollar fine, or both, according to the Justice Department.
On Nov. 16, a few weeks after the plea agreement, Amesbury was found severely beaten in Henderson, Nev., according to Keith Paul, a spokesman for Henderson Police. Amesbury was found bloody, lying in the street of a gated community with a head injury and scrapes on his arms. He was not wearing a shirt and his pants were down to his ankles. Amesbury told detectives at the hospital that "he planned to commit suicide or try to," according to police reports. He later admitted he had brought 30 Valium pills with him.
The investigation into the incident was closed in January and police do not believe it was a result of Amesbury's plea agreement.
Prosecutors in the federal investigation have been building a foundation to indict 51-year-old Quon, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The investigation will continue despite the recent deaths.