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DETROIT – The former manager of the City of Taylor’s Community Development and former Treasurer of Mayor Richard Sollars’ campaign fund, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit bribery with Richard Sollars, Shady Awad, real estate developer, and Hadir Altoon, real estate developer and owner of Dominick’s Market, Acting United States Attorney Saima S. Mohsin announced today.

Mohsin was joined in the announcement by Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the Michigan Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Pleading guilty was Jeffrey Baum, 46, of Allen Park.

During his guilty plea hearing, Baum admitted accepting thousands of dollars in cash bribe payments for himself and over $40,000 in cash payments to Sollars in connection with the City of Taylor’s Right of First Refusal (“ROFR”) Program.  The ROFR Program is designed to allow Taylor to acquire tax-foreclosed properties from Wayne County for redevelopment. According to court records, between 2017 and 2019, Baum helped Sollars steal money from Sollars’ campaign by giving Sollars blank campaign checks, bearing his signature as the treasurer of the campaign fund, so that Altoon, with Baum’s assistance on occasions, could prepare false and inflated invoices for catering services that were never rendered, were prepared in amounts higher than the actual amount for the catering services provided, and/or were for catering services for which Altoon had already been paid by the City of Taylor. 

In furtherance of the fraudulent scheme, Altoon issued the false invoices to Sollars’ campaign fund and completed blank campaign fund checks, provided to Sollars by Baum, in the amounts of the false invoices.  Altoon cashed the campaign checks based on the false invoices at his store, Dominick’s Market, and gave Sollars cash and/or scratch-off lottery tickets in same amounts of the checks, totaling over $35,000. It was also part of the conspiracy and in exchange for kickbacks to Baum and Sollars, Baum, without the knowledge of Taylor City Council, but with the knowledge and approval of Sollars, fraudulently facilitated the transfers of tax-foreclosed properties that Taylor had awarded to other developers. Baum transferred to Altoon two of Taylor’s tax-foreclosed properties that that Taylor had originally awarded to another developer and also helped prepare an agreement to transfer nine properties that Taylor had previously awarded to Awad, to Altoon.  After Baum provided Altoon a list of nine properties that were eventually transferred and/or intended to be transferred to Altoon by Awad under this agreement, Baum accepted thousands of dollars in cash from Altoon. Over the course of the conspiracy, Baum also accepted hundreds of dollars in cash and gift cards from Altoon. In addition, Baum accepted $5,000 in cash from Altoon for one of Sollars’ campaign fundraising events. Baum also admitted that he accepted $5,000 in cash for a Sollars’ campaign event from another individual interested in doing business with the City. Both times, Baum gave the cash to Sollars and did not include receipt of the funds in Sollars’ campaign finance reports, as required.

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In furtherance of the conspiracy, Baum also caused Taylor to dismiss approximately 21 tickets charging civil infractions, ranging between $150 and $200 each, that had been issued by Taylor against Realty Transition and Awad.

The bribery conspiracy count to which Baum pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 5 years of imprisonment.  Under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, it is likely that Baum will face a guideline sentencing range of between 46 and 57 months of imprisonment, and a maximum fine of up to $250,000.

Acting United States Attorney Mohsin said, “Citizens in this district deserve public officials who conduct the public’s business with integrity and without improper influence. We will root out and continue to hold accountable those public officials who betray the public’s trust for their own personal benefit or for the benefit of another.”

“The citizens of Taylor deserve a government free of corruption,” said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division. “Today’s conviction should stand as a warning to any public official that the FBI will aggressively investigate anyone who uses their official position for personal gain.”

The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dawn N. Ison and Frances Carlson.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness & Prevention Month. Personally, everyone knows someone who has been affected by intimate-partner violence. Professionally, those who work in the criminal justice system continue to see rises in intimate partner violence despite tireless efforts to combat this epidemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused further strain on domestic violence both nationally and internationally. Risk factors have exponentially increased such as, unemployment, substance use, isolation at home, mental health issues, etc. As risk factors increase leading to rising violence; resources for victims were at a record low due to closures and staffing shortages. Unfortunately, pandemic or not, the violence doesn’t stop and neither do we.

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