Mayor indicted on federal bribery and fraud charges

“The unearthing of allegedly blatant corruption at the top levels of government in the City of Taylor should disturb every citizen of our state."

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Image Credit: Eric Seals/ Detroit Free Press

The mayor of the City of Taylor, Michigan, was charged Thursday in a 33-count indictment along with the city’s community development manager and a real estate developer. According to the indictment, the mayor accepted multiple bribes while stealing more than $200,000 from his own campaign funds.

From June 2015 to February 2019, Mayor Richard “Rick” Sollars helped businessman Shady Awad’s real estate development company, Realty Transition LLC, obtain scores of tax-foreclosed properties owned by the City of Taylor. In return, Awad allegedly lavished Sollars with thousands of dollars in cash and over $30,000 in renovations to the mayor’s home, over $11,000 in renovations to Sollars’s lake house, and over $12,000 in new household appliances, including a refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, a $1,600 cigar humidor, a vacuum cleaner, and a clothes washer and dryer.

In addition to accepting bribes from Awad in exchange for political favors, the city’s community development manager, Jeffrey Baum, and the mayor stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Sollars’s campaign fund according to the recent indictment. While depositing campaign funds into their personal accounts, Baum and Sollars also allegedly wrote checks from the campaign account to caterers for the mayor’s events who would cash the campaign checks and give the cash back to Sollars, with no catering provided.

On February 10, FBI agents raided the mayor’s home and seized $205,993 in cash. On Thursday, Sollars, Awad, and Baum were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Sollars and Awad were each charged with seven counts of bribery. Sollars and Baum were charged with 18 counts of wire fraud due to their campaign fund scheme. Each count is punishable by lengthy prison terms as long as 20 years and by fines of as much as $250,000.

“The unearthing of allegedly blatant corruption at the top levels of government in the City of Taylor should disturb every citizen of our state,” stated U.S. 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.”

“Any time an allegation of corruption is brought to our attention, the FBI’s Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force will investigate it thoroughly. Public corruption at any level undermines the community’s faith in their elected officials and does long-term damage to government institutions,” said Steven D’Antuono, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sollars has served as mayor of Taylor since November 2013 and previously served on the City Council.

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