Billionaire and Co-Defendant Agree to Donate $1 Million to Stay Out of Jail
by Kevin Bliss
Broadcom co-founder Henry Nicholas III and his friend, Ashley Fargo, entered Alford pleas in Nevada’s Clark County District Court on October 2, 2019, to two counts of felony drug possession. The plea agreement stipulated that the charges would be dismissed in one year if they completed 250 hours of community service, donated $1 million to charities and committed no new crimes within that period.
Nicholas and former UCLA professor Henry Samueli started Broadcom in 1991, designing microchips for devices like the iPhone and Bluetooth. The company now oversees a multibillion-dollar technological empire. Nicholas and Samueli were indicted in 2008 for stock options fraud, for allegedly backdating stock options to make them more valuable without disclosing that practice in regulatory filings.
At the same time, Nicholas also was indicted for providing cocaine and ecstasy to his friends and associates. The indictment accused him of engaging in sex and drug use in a “secret lair” built into his home in Laguna Hills, California. The charges were dismissed by a federal judge in 2010, citing misconduct and witness intimidation by prosecutors.
Nicholas currently leads an organization called Marsy’s Law for All. Marsy’s Law was named after Nicholas’ sister, Marsalee, who was stalked and killed in 1980 by her ex-boyfriend. Nicholas financed a ballot initiative that would codify the rights of crime victims and their families to meet with the prosecution, receive notifications and attend hearings. California was the first to pass Marsy’s Law, and several other states have since followed. The organization continues to campaign for victim advocacy. [See: PLN, Dec. 2019, p.22; Feb. 2018, p.52].
In August 2018, Nicholas contacted staff at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas after he was accidentally locked out of his suite. When security forced entry into his room, they found Fargo unresponsive with an empty can of nitrous oxide on the floor beside her. Upon searching the suite, police found travel cases containing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and several psychedelic drugs. The two were arrested and Nicholas retained attorneys Richard Schonfeld and David Chesnoff to represent him, while Fargo retained David Brown.
The defense filed motions denying their clients’ ownership of the travel cases. They said the cases were found in a common area to which several people visiting the room had access, and claimed the police did not have any fingerprints or forensic evidence to support the charges.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson acknowledged there was no evidence that Nicholas or Fargo had intended to sell the drugs. He said new laws passed in 2019 would have resulted in punishment of no more than probation for the possession charges.
“On top of that, they offered to contribute $1 million to drug facilities and programs from which hundreds and hundreds of Clark County residents are going to benefit,” Wolfson added. All of those factors contributed to his decision to offer the plea deal.
Since then, Nicholas and Fargo have donated $400,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada and the Foundation for Recovery in Las Vegas, for drug prevention and treatment, plus $200,000 to the PACT Coalition for Safe and Drug Free Communities.
This case illustrates the importance of being wealthy if you are charged with crimes, so you can buy your way out of the potential jail or prison sentence that most poor defendants receive.
Sources: abcnews.go.com, latimes.com, marsyslaw.us
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