(WXYZ) — Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars is one of three people indicted by a federal grand jury on more than a dozen charges.
The indictment unsealed in federal court Thursday charges Sollars, Shady Awad, who is a businessman and owns a company called Realty Transition, and Jeffrey Baum, the city of Taylor's community development manager.
Sollars and Awad are charged with seven counts of bribery each, and Sollars and Baum are each also charged with 18 counts of wire fraud.
They are charged with 14 counts of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, one count conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of wire fraud.
According to the indictment, Awad's company, Realty Transition was selected by Sollars to develop a majority of the tax-foreclosed properties in the city's Right of First Refusal (ROFR) program. The indictment said in 2015, Realty Transition was awarded the right to develop all 95 of the city's properties. In 2016, they were awarded 29 of the 34 properties; in 2017, it was 38 of 45 properties, and in 2018, it was all 37 properties, according to the indictment.
Sollars has been under federal investigation for months, and recently released a lengthy video on his campaign's Facebook page saying he's an innocent man whose life has been turned upside down by the FBI.
"They've essentially paralyzed us," Sollars said. "After working our entire life to try to be prepared for adult life, they now have us living paycheck to paycheck."
Monday morning, Sollars posted the 20-minute video, which mimicked a TV news story. It was narrated by former WDIV reporter Kevin Dietz, who Sollars’ attorney Todd Flood says was compensated for producing the video. He said he was unfamiliar with the terms of the deal, and said either Sollars or his campaign would pay for the video. Dietz declined comment.
It is the first time Sollars has offered an explanation for the FBI raids of his home and office last February. In February, FBI agents also raided Realty Transition.
As for the conspiracy to commit bribery charge, the indictment said that Sollars to acceptedd over $30,000 in renovations to Sollars' home, over $11,000 in renovations to Sollars' lake house, over $12,000 worth of household appliances and cabinets, cash and other items from Awad, all with intent to influence and reward Sollars and Baum to give Awad's company city business.
A majority of the bribery charges all relate to different things that happened between Awad, Sollars and Baum, including renovations on his home, the installation of hardwood floors and much more.
The indictment also includes several text messages between Awad, Sollars and Baum. In one, the feds say Awad wrote, "My relationship with Rick is worth $1 million so whatever it takes I’ll pay for it," when talking to a contractor about free work on Sollars' lake house.
In another text, the indictment said Award told Sollars that he was Awad's "silent partner" in the real estate development business.
“The unearthing of allegedly blatant corruption at the top levels of government in the City of Taylor should disturb every citizen of our state,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider said in a release. “Federal law enforcement will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute any public officials who chose their personal greed over their public oath.”
You can read the indictment below.
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