From a pair of elderly Michiganders accused of bribery in Aspen to a former charity executive charged with taking $350,000 meant for Denver’s homeless, there are plenty of financial crime and fraud cases to keep an eye on as the calendar changes years.
Here are seven white-collar crime cases to watch in 2023.
Mashni and Hachem
Michigan residents Samir Mashni, 67, and Noureddine “Dean” Hachem, 66, were charged in October 2021 with one count each of mail fraud. Federal prosecutors say the two flew a Florida airport executive to Aspen in 2017 and tried to bribe that unnamed executive.
Mashni and Hachem initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But in October, their attorneys announced they would both change their pleas to guilty at two concurrent hearings on Jan. 18.
The case carries added intrigue because Mashni and Hachem have long been accused in a civil lawsuit of bribing a former chief revenue officer at Denver International Airport in exchange for the largest concession contract in that airport’s history.
The civil case is ongoing. No criminal charges have been filed related to the Denver accusations.
Mashni and Hachem have also been connected to another airport bribery case. In February 2020, the San Francisco Chronicle reported they acted as FBI informants in the investigation of a San Francisco public works director and a restaurateur. Both of those men pleaded guilty to trying to bribe a San Francisco airport commissioner for a contract.
Bachar, a 57-year-old disbarred lawyer, and businessman, pleaded guilty on Nov. 14 to felony theft and misdemeanor theft. He will be sentenced at 1 p.m. on Jan. 27.
Bachar has admitted convincing an old friend, whom he knew from their time on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and in the Clinton administration, to invest $125,000 in a company he co-owned. Bachar then spent the money on personal expenses.
The question at Bachar’s sentencing will be how much money he brought with him. As part of an agreement with Denver prosecutors, he will be sentenced to probation if he turns over $174,370 in restitution that day. If not, he faces up to 12 years in state prison.
Singhaus, 48, was returning from an overseas trip in January 2022 when he was arrested at DIA by Department of Homeland Security agents and Denver police officers.
The next day, he was charged with eight felony counts. Prosecutors say the nonprofit executive used a forged Internal Revenue Service letter and fake employer identification number to take $349,000 in grants from the Denver Foundation and spend it on personal expenses.
Singhaus will be in court on Jan. 30 for a hearing to determine whether he has reached an agreement with prosecutors. If not, the case will move to a trial later in the year.
Two SEC cases
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Denver office filed two significant cases in the second half of 2022 that could be resolved in 2023.
In August, the SEC charged developer Brian Watson and his Denver-based development firm Northstar Commercial Partners, with five civil counts of securities fraud. They’re accused of misleading investors in real estate projects but have denied the allegations.
Two months later, the SEC accused Brent Willis, 62, of falsely telling investors in his company NewAge Inc. that the company had a massive distribution deal with the U.S. military and had invented CBD-infused drinks. Neither the deal nor drinks existed, the SEC claims.
Willis, of Denver, has denied the allegations and predicted he would win the case.
Dragul, 60, was charged with nine counts of securities fraud in 2018 for allegedly misleading investors in his company, GDA Real Estate Services. But prosecutors had to drop eight of the nine charges after admitting they were outside a statute of limitations.
An eight-day trial on the remaining count is scheduled to begin on June 5.
Meanwhile, Dragul is being sued by Harvey Sender, the receiver in control of his company and estate, who accuses him of running a Ponzi scheme. A three-week trial is set for May 8.
Dragul also faces five other counts of securities fraud from a 2019 indictment. That case is on hold pending the outcome of the one remaining count from the 2018 indictment.
Dragul and his attorneys have steadfastly denied all accusations of wrongdoing. They say he is an honest businessman who is being unjustly prosecuted and will be vindicated.