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Sheriff hopeful faces coercion claim

A Pahrump woman is accusing Nye County sheriff’s candidate Mark Zane of seizing her property, as collateral in a quit claim deed drawn up by her attorney, Todd Leventhal, that has left her still living in her home without power for two months as she appeals eviction.

Charlene Dee Ellis hired Leventhal, a Las Vegas attorney who was formerly an Esmeralda County district attorney, to represent her after her arrest on trafficking methamphetamine and conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act in March 2011. She is set to undergo trial in September 2014. Leventhal quoted her a fee of $25,000.

A motion to vacate an eviction order states that at a June 14, 2012 arraignment hearing Leventhal told Ellis to tell the court she wasn’t in a position to retain him as her attorney, even though she had already given Leventhal her Sea-doo watercraft, an accompanying trailer and $1,900 cash.

When Leventhal threatened to withdraw as her legal counsel in July 2012, Ellis met Levanthal at his office to work out a payment plan. Leventhal had already drafted a flat fee retainer hiking his fee to $125,000 and a quit claim deed which would constitute payment in full, according to the motion, which alleges Ellis was coerced into signing it after Leventhal told her she could face 25 years to life in prison. Leventhal assured Ellis it was only a lien, not conveyance of title to the property.

The motion, filed by attorney Matthew Callister, alleges the quit claim deed Ellis signed conveyed her home to Tego LLC and TLC Nevada Inc. Leventhal is the manager and registered agent for Tego LLC, while TLC Nevada Inc. is owned and operated by Zane, who also owns Zane Investigations.

“At no time did plaintiff agree in any way to quit claim her home to Mark Zane or any entities owned by him, as the retainer agreement was for legal services to be provided by Leventhal. Plaintiff was not advised by Leventhal that the documents signed by her extended to another person, corporation or any entity outside of Leventhal, who again stated that said documents would be used only as security collateral for continued legal representation,” the complaint states.

Ellis bought the home at 4891 Dyer Road in March 2007 for $222,500 with proceeds from her inheritance.

On Aug. 6, 2012, the motion states, Ellis attended a pre-trial hearing without Leventhal. In December 2013, Ellis received a notice to vacate her home within five days; the complaint states the letter wasn’t a valid means of eviction. In January, the complaint states Zane served her with an unlawful detainer notice he signed on behalf of TLC Nevada Inc., which falsely said Ellis rented her home from TLC Nevada Inc.

The complaint adds Zane transferred the power bill to his name and cut off power in mid-March. Since then Ellis has been living without power to her home.

Zane obtained an eviction order Feb. 4, 2014 in Pahrump Justice Court, according to court documents. Ellis appealed to the Fifth District Court.

The first cause of action states, “Leventhal and Zane conspired to con plaintiff out of her home by creating a quit claim deed that conveyed title to her home to entities for which both Leventhal and Zane had a personal interest.”

Zane was reluctant to comment on many of the details.

“I’m unable to comment because, number one, statutorily my relationship with Ms. Ellis is ongoing and I have a statutory confidentiality that their law requires I abide by as a private investigator, as well as I have a work product liability to Leventhal and Associates, who is still, to this day, her counsel,” Zane said.

Zane did say three additional criminal charges were filed against Ellis during this period. Ellis claimed she wasn’t able to get a second loan on her home to pay Leventhal, but Zane questioned why a financial institution wouldn’t loan her $25,000 if the home was worth as much as the lawsuit states. Zane also questioned what the payment plan was from April 2011 to August 2012. That will be uncovered during the trial.

The court papers list an address for TLC Nevada Inc. at 9 Greg St. in Sparks. Zane formerly lived in Pahrump, but moved away and just recently registered to vote here on March 26.

Court records show attorney Lillian Donohue is now substituted as Zane’s attorney and Fifth District Judge Robert Lane has recused himself from the case, due to his re-election campaign against Donohue. The case has been referred to a senior judge in Las Vegas.

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