The closing date for developer Chris Milam to take control of about 480 acres of Henderson desert, which had been proposed for a sports arena complex, has been extended yet again amid fraud allegations.
Milam’s Silver State Land LLC is now set to close escrow on March 28, his attorney Nicholas J. Santoro said at a court hearing Tuesday before District Court Judge Susan W. Scann.
Milam was supposed to take control of the land in December, but the closing date was initially extended to Wednesday.
Scann was scheduled Tuesday to consider approving the city's request for a court order to prevent Milam's group from selling the land in Henderson.
But in light of the new escrow-closing date, she agreed to reschedule the hearing on the proposed preliminary injunction. It's now slated for March 18.
The developer, who lives in Texas, is the CEO of International Development Management. He has been trying to acquire the property near the M Resort from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for a proposed Las Vegas National Sports Complex.
Milam has laid out plans calling for up to four sports arenas and stadiums. The combined price was expected to be more than $1 billion.
The city of Henderson last week, however, sued Milam and several others working with him on the deal. In the lawsuit, they are accused of attempting to use a city-approved development pact to fraudulently buy public land at a cheap price with the intent to sell it for profit to other developers.
The suit was filed against Milam, his lawyers John F. Marchiano and Christopher C. Stephens, land consultant Michael Ford and public relations-lobbying chief Lee Haney.
Santoro’s firm said in court papers Monday that the city “concocted a story of fraud and conspiracy” that paints Milam as the “evil developer from Texas.”
To get money and tenants for the arena project, Milam’s group worked with the investment firms Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Piper Jaffray to arrange financing and held talks with “senior officials” of the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, the filing said.
Milam’s group was also said to have held extensive talks with “numerous” NBA franchises and had discussions to create a regional sports network for a basketball team.
According to the filing, Milam’s group got furthest with a plan to bring the Sacramento Kings to Henderson. But the deal fell apart by late summer or early fall after construction-financing terms were changed, according to the filing, which also cited the “slow pace of discussions on the Kings.”
Chris Clark, spokesman for the NBA team, said Tuesday that he could not confirm if talks were held, as he is “not privy to these or any other conversations.”
Milam deposited the balance of the land’s $10.5 million purchase price into escrow on Nov. 28. Also that day, he hand-delivered a letter to City Hall saying he was terminating the project agreement, because the arena plans were not viable.
That day, after officials confronted Marchiano — a former Henderson city attorney — about his client’s actions, Marchiano “confessed” to City Manager Jacob Snow and City Attorney Josh Reid that Milam “had been lying” about the project, according to the lawsuit.
Jacob Hafter, attorney for Marchiano, has told VEGAS INC that his client “never confessed to anything because he didn’t know of any of these issues.” Hafter made similar arguments in a court filing last week.
In response, lawyers for City Hall said in court paperwork that “a guilty conscience needs no accuser,” and that Marchiano’s defense claims are “as stable as a house of cards in a hurricane.”
According to the city, Marchiano confessed to Reid in an email dated Nov. 30 and a hand-written letter dated Dec. 16. Both were enclosed in the city’s court filing. In the letter he purportedly wrote, Marchiano told Reid:
“Josh, I have very few friends. Most of the people I associate with are people who can do things for me; I use them they use me (sic).... I know what a hypocrite I can be.
“Josh, it is important to me that you know that I had no idea what Milam was doing in marketing the property....
“Josh, I wish I had done things differently.
“I have no right to expect anything from you.
“I will do my best to learn from this; and not repeat the same mistake (sic)....”
In September 2011, the Henderson City Council approved an initial project agreement with Milam’s group and voted to support the BLM land sale. The next month, the council approved rezoning the land.
Milam’s companies announced about a year ago that Shenzhen, China-based China Security & Surveillance Technology had tentatively agreed to finance a $650 million, 17,500-seat indoor arena suitable for a basketball team.
Once the arena was completed, Milam has said, he planned to build three other stadiums that could host soccer, baseball and football games.
Milam has allegedly said in marketing materials that even if sports facilities weren’t built, mixed-use and residential projects still could be developed.