Real estate scheme lands Michigan mayor in hot water

Real estate scheme lands Michigan mayor in hot water
The mayor of a Michigan town along with his several others were recently charged with a 33-count indictment for conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud in a real estate scheme that allegedly involved foreclosed properties and campaign finance violations.

According to the Department of Justice, from 2015 through 2019, Taylor Mayor Richard Sollars, businessman Shady Awad, and Taylor Community Development Manager Jeffrey Baum allegedly took part in a real estate scheme that involved the acquisition of several foreclosed properties.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office claims that Sollars’ scheme involved him allegedly helping Awad’s real estate development company, Realty Transition, acquire a multitude of tax-foreclosed properties owned by the city.

In exchange, Awad allegedly “lavished” Sollars with cash and other gifts, according to the DOJ.

Per court documents, Awad allegedly gave Sollars “thousands of dollars in cash and over $30,000 in renovations to Sollars’s home, over $11,000 in renovations to Sollars’s lake house, and over $12,000 in new household appliances.”

Court documents show that the appliances in question included a refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, a $1,600 cigar humidor, a vacuum cleaner, and a washer and dryer. 

Beyond that, Awad also supposedly provided Sollars with free renovations, including hardwood floors on every level of Sollars’ Taylor residence, hardwood floors at a lake house, a garage door, a new front door, cabinets, and a refurbished lake house deck.

According to the DOJ, text messages between the accused, which are cited throughout the indictment, show the entire development of the alleged scheme. 

From the DOJ’s announcement: 

In one text, Awad states as follows: “My relationship with Rick is worth $1 million so whatever it takes I’ll pay for it” in telling a contractor to do free work on Sollars’s lake house. In another text, the Indictment states that Awad told Sollars that Sollars was Awad’s “silent partner” in Awad’s real estate development business.

The indictment also charges Sollars and Baum with 18 counts of wire fraud, alleging that Sollars and Baum defrauded donors to Sollars’s campaign fund in mulitiple ways.  

The DOJ indicates the pair cheated donors in three ways:

First, Sollars would take checks from his campaign account and write them payable to a particular market, purporting to pay for catering for one of Sollars’s events,” the DOJ writes. “Instead, the market owner would cash the campaign checks and give the cash back to Sollars, with no catering provided. Second, Sollars and Baum would direct Sollars’s supporters to write checks directly to the market for events that never occurred. Sollars would get cash and scratch-off lottery tickets from the market owner. Third, Sollars and Baum would solicit and accept thousands of dollars in cash contributions to Sollars’s campaign. Instead of depositing the funds into his campaign account, Sollars would simply keep the cash and use it for personal expenses.”

Sollars and Awad have each been charged with seven counts of bribery. Notably, the indictment also seeks forfeiture of $205,993 in cash seized from Sollars’ home during the month of February of this year.

“The unearthing of allegedly blatant corruption at the top levels of government in the City of Taylor should disturb every citizen of our state,” said United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “Federal law enforcement will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute any public officials who choose their personal greed over their public oath.”
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