The federal government has agreed to pay a former Amazon employee for a property it effectively seized from him as part of a criminal investigation into his relationship with a Denver developer.
The government said in a filing earlier this month that it is willing to pay Casey Kirschner $600,000, on top of a payment of $800,000 it made last year.
That’s a total of $1.4 million, which is what the government said were the net sale proceeds when Kirschner agreed to sell his property at 35 Queensland Lane North in Plymouth, Minnesota, and have the government seize the cash.
The settlement, which Kirschner has agreed to, still needs court approval.
Kirschner grew up in the Denver area and landed a job on the real estate side of Amazon. In that role, he was tasked, along with a higher-up named Carl Nelson, with finding sites and identifying firms to develop data center buildings for Amazon Web Services in northern Virginia. One firm selected was Denver-based Northstar Commercial Partners, fully owned by CEO Brian Watson, which landed deals worth more than $400 million.
In April 2020, Amazon sued Watson, Nelson and Kirschner in federal court in Virginia. The company accused the trio of engaging in what it called “a significant fraud and kickback scheme,” in which Watson paid Nelson and Kirschner through a trust in exchange for landing the development deals. That civil litigation is ongoing, although the scope of it was significantly reduced in April when a judge rejected the bulk of Amazon’s claims. A trial is scheduled for October.
The seizure of the property west of Minneapolis relates to a parallel criminal investigation undertaken by the government.
That investigation has led to two individuals pleading guilty to wire fraud: former Northstar executive Kyle Ramstetter and Casey’s brother Christian Kirschner, a longtime friend of Watson who introduced the two.
But Casey Kirschner, as well as Watson and Nelson, have not been charged and deny wrongdoing.
The government filed to seize Kirschner’s property west of Minneapolis in June 2020. That October, Kirschner —at the time not represented by an attorney — and the feds agreed he would sell the property and that the proceeds would be deposited into a U.S. Marshals Service account, court documents show.
The property, a newly built home, listed for $2.45 million and sold in June 2021 for $2.21 million, per Zillow. The cash has been sitting in limbo since then.
JD Thomas, a Nashville-based attorney with Barnes & Thornburg representing Kirschner, said in a statement that “this seizure should never have occurred.”
“It has had a terrible impact on Mr. Kirschner and his family, and prevented him from being able to fully defend himself,” Thomas said. “He looks forward to the complete dismissal of the civil case brought by Amazon.”
Stan Garnett of Garnett Powell Maximon Barlow, an attorney for Watson, said last week that the remittance of funds to Casey Kirschner “further evidences an unraveling of the narrative that Amazon has put forward.”
The feds have previously returned other assets seized as part of the investigation, including about $10,500 in cash from Casey Kirschner and hundreds of thousands of dollars from Nelson and his wife Amy. The Nelsons, however, forfeited about $108,000, saying fighting to get back all the funds would have cost more.
In a June 2022 email to an attorney representing Amazon, made public as part of the case in December, Justice Department attorney Kevin Hudson said the department “probably seized the funds too early.”