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Feds: Taylor mayor took cash, lottery tickets in bribery scheme

Amidst probe, Sollars mounts longshot write-in campaign
Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars
Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 18:16:03-04

TAYLOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — After being slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the corruption case against Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars appears to be heating up, according to a recent filing by the U.S. Attorney, with signs that multiple defendants could soon plead guilty.

Sollars was indicted back in 2019, along with real estate developer Shady Awad and Taylor Community Development Manager Jeffrey Baum, accused of running an elaborate bribery scheme that lined Sollars and Baum’s pockets in exchange for funneling foreclosed city properties to Awad’s development company.

In today’s new filing, Sollars is accused of cashing campaign checks at a Taylor party store in exchange for cash and scratch-off lottery tickets.

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The party store is owned by Hadir Altoon, according to the feds, who say Sollars used his campaign fund to pay phony catering invoices from Altoon’s party store. Altoon cashed the checks, the feds say, giving Sollars cash and lottery tickets in the same amount as the phony invoices.

In return, Altoon is said to have received properties from the city’s foreclosed home program. All told, the feds say Sollars collected $80,000 from the scheme and Baum took in $4,000.

Back when he was indicted, Sollars’ attorney said he’d clear his client’s name.

“My client’s innocent,” said attorney Todd Flood outside federal court in 2019. “We’re going to fight this case in court. We looked at this indictment, we’re not scared by it and we’re going to take this day and clear my client because he did nothing wrong.”

But the pressure on Sollars appears to be building, according to former assistant U.S. Attorney Anjali Prasad. The filing today, called a first superseding information, is a sign that Altoon is expected to issue a plea and is cooperating with the feds.

“It’s always difficult to beat the US Attorney’s office trial,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to do so if there’s a cooperating defendant who’s going to testify and say, 'I did it with this guy.'”

Prasad points out that court filings show Shady Awad is also scheduled to issue a plea later on this month. Still, she says cooperating defendants aren’t always a slam dunk for prosecutors.

"The cooperating defendants do not have clean hands,” said Prasad, now a criminal defense attorney in Royal Oak. “They have skin in the game and it’s very easy for any lawyer to cross-examine the defendant and say look, you’ve got a reason to rat out this guy. You’re saving your own skin.”

Attorneys for Sollars and Shady Awad could not be reached for comment.

Lawyers for Hadir Altoon and Jeffrey Baum declined to comment on today’s developments.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.