Zane disputes coercion claim in lawsuit

Nye County sheriff’s candidate Mark Zane said he was expressing his desire for transparency in attempting to clear up allegations in a lawsuit that he improperly was involved in evicting a woman from her property over a legal bill.

Charlene Dee Ellis, who is awaiting trial on meth trafficking charges, signed over a water craft as collateral for what was initially a $25,000 fee charged by Las Vegas attorney Todd Levanthal in 2011.

“The facts, according to the story, would have you believe that the cost of three plus years of legal representation by a highly skilled Las Vegas lawyer was covered by an inoperative, depreciated, 13-year-old Sea Doo watercraft, a trailer, and $1,900 if actually paid and received,” Zane said in a letter regarding last week’s news story in the Pahrump Valley Times.

While awaiting trial on criminal charges, Ellis was given a 30-day notice to vacate her property in Pahrump Justice Court Feb. 4, she had later signed a quit claim deed giving her property to Leventhal.

“This was just after she solicited Mr. Leventhal to cooperate in an insurance fraud scheme where she could arrange for the property to be damaged and repairs made and an insurance claim filed against the liability insurance, paid for by TLC Nevada Inc. As you can imagine, Mr. Leventhal declined the offer,” Zane said in the letter. He is the owner of TLC Nevada Inc.

Ellis unsuccessfully attempted to exclude this from testimony in court as attorney-client privilege, he said.

On March 11, the District Court received notice of an appeal of the eviction. But Zane said the appeal referred not to the eviction action, but a separate legal action for breach of contract. He said it should’ve been dismissed.

“Issue over? Not so fast. This is Nye County,” Zane wrote.

District Judge Robert Lane scheduled a hearing on the appeal April 28. While some clients have been waiting for months for hearings on civil matters, Zane said, sarcastically, that he was fortunate for such a quick court date.

“Still thinking the matter was within my ability to represent the issue and not wanting to spend a bunch of money on lawyers, just having paid almost $400 in power bills that VEA notified me were subject to disconnect at the Ellis address, I appeared at this hearing with nothing more than the notice of appeal to respond to,” Zane said.

Zane said during the appeal hearing, he was given a copy of a lawsuit by Ellis’ new attorney, Matthew Callister, faxed from Callister’s office to the district court at 10:30 p.m. the night before the hearing. Zane said he wasn’t ready to proceed at the hearing, but told the court a separate lawsuit would be the proper forum for the allegations, not an appeal hearing for an eviction.

Zane approached attorney Lillian Donohue in the courthouse hall, and knowing her background, hired her as his attorney. The case has been referred to a senior judge, since Donohue is running against Lane in his reelection bid.

The allegations put Zane in the spotlight of an already zany sheriff’s race. He says he has shunned any negative publicity.

“My candidacy has been restrained, so not to be part of the current circus environment. I firmly believe that we are making significant headway toward election. The message of this campaign has been clear and concise and I’ve enjoyed the positive feedback of the citizens from all over Nye County,” Zane wrote in his response.

While Zane didn’t refer to the article as a “hit piece,” he said, “there is no coincidence in the timing of this article. I have successfully run a clean campaign and I’ve been able to distance myself from the negative rhetoric surrounding this important race. With that being said, I make no excuses, nor do I seek any special concessions from the citizens of Nye County.”

During a candidates’ forum at the Artesia Community Center last week, Zane said he worked in the Nye County Sheriff’s Office from 1980 to 1995 and was the first to graduate from the FBI Academy. Zane said unlike what was reported in the article, he never moved from Pahrump. He owns Zane Investigations.

“I want the citizens of Nye County to know who they’re voting for. I am 100 percent confident that I am the best candidate for this position. This is just one example of the transparency that needs to exist between this county and its next sheriff,” he said.

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