A thirty-three count Indictment unsealed today charges City of Taylor Mayor Richard “Rick” Sollars, businessman Shady Awad, and Taylor Community Development Manager Jeffrey Baum with conspiracy to commit bribery in a scheme spanning from 2015 to 2019, United States Attorney Matthew Schneider announced. The Indictment also charges Sollars and Awad with seven counts of bribery each, and charges Sollars and Baum with 18 counts of Wire Fraud.
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 of Taylor. In return, Awad lavished Sollars with 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. The appliances included a refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, a $1,600 cigar humidor, a vacuum cleaner, and a clothes washer and dryer. The free renovations provided to Sollars by Awad include hardwood floors on every level of Sollars’s Taylor residence, hardwood floors at the lake house, a garage door, a new front door, cabinets, and a refurbished lake house deck. The Indictment also alleges that Jeffrey Baum received bribes from Awad and another developer, in exchange for Baum’s help in obtaining tax-foreclosed properties from the City.
Text messages between Sollars, Awad, and Baum cited throughout the Indictment document the bribe scheme. 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. Sollars, 45, is a resident of Taylor. Awad, 39, and Baum, 44, are both residents of Allen Park, Michigan.
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 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. 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.
The Indictment also seeks forfeiture of $205,993 in cash seized from Sollars’s home on February 10, 2019.
Schneider was joined in the announcement by Steven D’Antuono, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“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.”
"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 SAC D'Antuono. "With that in mind, we encourage anyone who believes they have information about corruption to contact the FBI at 313-965-4545 or tips.fbi.gov."
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dawn Ison and R. Michael Bullotta.
An indictment is only a charging document and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt