A recently revived lawsuit claiming that bribery and bid-rigging were behind a Detriot-area company winning a major concession contract at Denver International Airport alleges the FBI investigated the bidding process.
Earlier this month, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story identifying Samir Mashni and Noureddine “Dean” Hachem, two of the top executives at Romulus, Mich.-based Midfield Concession Enterprises, as FBI informants that worked with federal investigators to build a fraud case against San Francisco’s now-former director of public works Mohammed Nuru and a San Francisco restaurant owner Nick Bovis.
DIA Brewing Co., a company affiliated with the Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Co. and the Cherry Cricket restaurant, brought the DIA bid-rigging suit in 2018. An amended version of the complaint names a group of 11 people and businesses as defendants, among them Romulus, Mich.-based Midfield Concession Enterprises Inc., Mashni, the company’s general counsel, and Hachem, its chief operating officer.
In the complaint, which was recently remanded to Denver District Court after the Colorado Court of Appeals overruled its dismissal, DIA Brewing says Midfield and its co-defendants worked with then-DIA chief revenue officer Bhavesh Patel in 2015 and 2016 to fix the bidding process that awarded a contract to operate four restaurant locations inside the airport for 10 years. Patel’s efforts, including allegedly shredding scorecards ranking the bidders, ensured Midfield subsidiary MCE-DIA won the contract. In return, two companies connected to Patel were given a stake in MCE-DIA, the suit claims.
“The existence of this conspiratorial scheme might never have come to light except for the involvement of the FBI,” the suit says, claiming that a retired agent was alerted to “irregularities” in the bidding process from a contact at DIA. The retired agent passed along information to the agency’s Denver office resulting in a criminal investigation that began in April 2016, the suit claims.
Mashni and Hachem began cooperating with the FBI “under the threat of a pending federal investigation,” the Chronicle story says. They two men recorded phone conversations and in-person meetings they had with Bovis and Nuru starting in January 2018. The biggest alleged conspiracy the investigation uncovered involved plans to bribe an airport commissioner $5,000 to secure a lease for a Bovis restaurant at San Francisco International Airport, according to the Chronicle’s reporting.
“It’s unclear why Mashni and Hachem are being investigated,” the story says.
Special Agent Amy Meyer with the FBI’s Denver office, said agency policy prohibits confirming or denying the existence of an investigation in most cases.
Midfield operates a Roasting Plant Coffee location in the San Francisco airport, according to the Chronicle. Midfield opened a Roasting Plant Coffee shop near the RTD train platform at DIA as part of its concession contract there. It also operates two Smashburger restuarants and the Tom’s Urban Kitchen & Brewery brewpub housed in the airport’s Westin hotel.
Neither the San Francisco coffee shop nor any of the four DIA businesses show up on the Midfield website, which lists dozens of other businesses in seven other U.S. airports.
Messages left for Hachem at Midfield’s office and for the attorney representing Midfield in the Denver lawsuit were not returned Friday. An email seeking comment sent through the company’s website also received no reply.
Bhavesh Patel and another former DIA employee, Mukesh “Mookie” Patel (no relation), were dropped from the list of defendants when the DIA suit was amended. The city and DIA are not defendants in that complaint.
“We are aware of the San Francisco Chronicle article and, at this time, that information does not have an impact on (MCE-DIA’s) contract,” airport spokeswoman Emily Williams said.
Midfield’s 10-year deal with DIA runs through 2026. The company is required to pay the airport a minimum of $1.96 million per year to operate the four locations.