Party store owner pleads guilty in Taylor mayor bribery scandal
A party store owner and developer accused of letting Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars cash campaign checks at his store in exchange for money and scratch-off lottery tickets pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to commit bribery with the mayor, the city's development manager and another developer.
Hadir Altoon, 49, who owns the Taylor party store Dominick’s Market along with two property development companies, pleaded guilty three weeks after being charged, said Saima Mohsin, acting United States Attorney.
Altoon of Farmington Hills faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, but sentencing guidelines means it's likely Altoon will face a sentence ranging between 27-33 months and a fine up to $250,000, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release.
The guilty plea is the second conviction in an alleged conspiracy in a city redevelopment program that has led to criminal charges against Sollars and his campaign treasurer, Taylor community development manager Jeffrey Baum.
Last week, developer Shady Awad pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy.
During his plea hearing, Altoon admitted paying bribes to Sollars by giving him tens of thousands of dollars in cash, scratch-off lottery tickets and other items. He also facilitated the payment of bribes to Sollars by Awad, in connection with the city of Taylor's Right of First Refusal Program, according to the release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The program is designed to allow Taylor to acquire tax-foreclosed properties from Wayne County for redevelopment.
Between 2017-19, Altoon paid and/or facilitated the payment of more than $80,000 to Sollars and over $4,000 in cash or other valuable items to Baum in exchange for their help in obtaining tax-foreclosed properties under the city program, the release said, citing court records.
Altoon also conspired with Sollars to steal money from Sollars' campaign fund by preparing false and inflated invoices for catering services that were never rendered and were services for which Altoon had already been paid by the city, the release said.
Altoon also issued false invoices to Sollars' campaign fund and cashed blank campaign fund checks with Baum's signature as the treasurer of the campaign fund. Altoon would cash the campaign checks based on false invoices from his store and give Sollars cash or scratch-off tickets totaling over $35,000, the release said.
Altoon cashed the donors’ checks, totaling over $12,000 and gave Sollars cash and/or scratch-off lottery tickets in the total amounts of the checks. Altoon also facilitated Sollars’s bribery activities with co-conspirator Awad by accepting credit card information from Awad and charging more than $19,000 to Awad’s credit cards, which Altoon converted to cash and gave to Sollars, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.
In exchange for the money, Altoon provided developers who would transfer properties to Awad, then give them back to Altoon through the city program. Altoon's home and store were raided in May 2019, the release said.
Sollars was indicted in December 2019 on federal bribery and wire fraud charges and accused of helping Awad's company Realty Transition obtain the city-owned properties in exchange for free work on his home and chalet, including hardwood floors, a humidor, appliances and more.
Mohsin said those helping public officials deny citizens honest services will be held accountable, and her office will continue to "unearth public corruption wherever we find it in this district."
"The corrupt activities uncovered in this case were facilitated by men whose desire for favorable treatment outweighed notions of integrity and fair play," said Special Agent in Charge Timothy Waters of FBI's Detroit Division in the release. "Those who seek to influence public officials through bribery will be aggressively pursued and prosecuted."