By ZEINAB NAJM
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Mayor Rick Sollars is accused of taking campaign cash and lottery tickets in a bribery scheme, according to new allegations filed by federal prosectors.
The new filing claims Sollars paid fake catering invoices for events from a party store owned by Hadir Altoon in Taylor using his campaign fund, which were cashed, and then Sollars was given cash and lottery tickets in the amount of the invoices.
Altoon allegedly received properties from the city’s Right of First Refusal foreclosed home program in exchange for cashing the checks and lottery tickets.
More than $30,000 in campaign checks were cashed fraudulently, according to the filing. Altoon is charged with one count of bribery conspiracy.
Sollars is facing a federal bribery and wire fraud lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. In December 2019, a 33-count indictment charged Sollars, businessman Shady Awad and Taylor Community Development Manager Jeffrey Baum for conspiracy to commit bribery in a scheme spanning from 2015 to 2019.
According to the indictment, Sollars helped Awad’s real estate development company, Realty Transition LLC, obtain scores of tax-foreclosed properties owned by the city. In return, Awad lavished Sollars with thousands of dollars in cash and over $30,000 in renovations to Sollars’ home, over $11,000 in renovations to Sollars’ lake house in Cement City, and over $12,000 in new household appliances.
Each count is punishable of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. Sollars also was accused of stealing more than $200,000 from his own campaign fund.
The indictment also alleges that Baum received bribes from Awad and another developer, in exchange for Baum’s help in obtaining tax-foreclosed properties from the city.
Sollars pleaded not guilty.
The indictment also charged Sollars and Awad with seven counts of bribery each, and charged Sollars and Baum with 18 counts of wire fraud.
Later this month, both Awad and Hadir are set to appear in court for plea hearings. Court appearances for Sollars and Baum have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, Sollars is seeking re-election as mayor through a write-in campaign in the November general election after not receiving enough votes in the primary election also through his write-in campaign.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])