Judge tosses out DIA bid-rigging, bribery lawsuit for a second time

Lawsuit claiming bribery at Denver airport dismissed

Patrons wait outside a Smashburger restaurant near Gate C51 at Denver International Airport. Midfield Concession Enterprises, which operates the Smashburger, was accused of bribing a DIA executive for its restaurant contract in a lawsuit dismissed by a judge Sunday. (Courtesy of Denver International Airport)

A Denver judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged several defendants — including two who have since been indicted in federal court and charged with bribing an airport executive in Aspen — rigged a restaurant contract bidding process at Denver International Airport in 2016.

Denver District Court Judge Darryl Shockley ruled Sunday that the lawsuit contains “only unsupported, conclusory allegations” of bribery and bid-rigging and “identifies no factual basis to support this conclusion.”

This is the second time that the lawsuit by DIA Brewing — which is affiliated with Wynkoop Brewing Co. and the Cherry Cricket restaurant — has been thrown out. In 2018, a different Denver District Court judge determined evidence in the lawsuit was lacking. That ruling was appealed and the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the lawsuit was valid and could proceed.

In 2016, DIA Brewing and three other companies lost a bid for a lucrative restaurant contract at the airport. DIA Brewing sued, alleging that the winning bidder, Michigan-based Midfield Concession Enterprises, bribed DIA Chief Revenue Officer Bhavesh Patel.

Patel, who left DIA later that year and now works as an airport consultant in Florida, has not been charged with a crime and was not a defendant in DIA Brewing’s lawsuit. Shockley ruled Sunday that there is insufficient evidence Patel was bribed by Midfield.

“Plaintiff implies that there ‘must have been’ a bribe because otherwise Bhavesh Patel would have had no reason to favor MCE-DIA or take the actions he is alleged to have taken to steer the contract to MCE-DIA,” Shockley wrote in his ruling, referring to Midfield Concession Enterprises. “A claim for bribery cannot be supported by such conclusory assertions.”

The airport itself was not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Midfield operates four locations at DIA: two Smashburger restaurants, a brewpub in the Westin hotel and a coffee bar in the hotel. They were awarded a 10-year contract in 2016.

Stephen Long, an attorney for DIA Brewing, declined to comment Monday. Peter Gergely, an attorney for the defendants, did not respond to a request for comment.

The ruling is a victory for defendants Samir Mashni and Noureddine “Dean” Hachem, two Midfield executives who were charged in federal court last October. They face one count each of mail fraud for allegedly trying to bribe “an appointed executive at a Florida airport” who was working as an FBI informant in Aspen in 2017.

Mashni and Hachem have pleaded not guilty. A five-day trial is scheduled to begin June 27.

Lawsuit claiming bribery at Denver airport dismissed

Lawsuit claiming bribery at Denver airport dismissed

Patrons wait outside a Smashburger restaurant near Gate C51 at Denver International Airport. Midfield Concession Enterprises, which operates the Smashburger, was accused of bribing a DIA executive for its restaurant contract in a lawsuit dismissed by a judge Sunday. (Courtesy of Denver International Airport)

He ruled there were “unsupported, conclusory allegations” regarding a restaurant contract and the suit “identifies no factual basis to support this conclusion.”

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