Tareq attorney – ‘Show me the money’; DC United – ‘We showed it to Tareq’
By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report
There was little action – at least initially – and nary a Salahi sighting to be had in or outside the Warren County General District Courtroom the morning of Dec. 18. That was despite another civil claims case involving at least one member of the county couple now famous as “the White House gatecrashers.”
Unlike their Dec. 4 court appearance which last drew the DC media to downtown Front Royal – Fox 5, WUSA 9 and the Washington Post were on hand with us this chilly morning – this time only Tareq Salahi was an involved party, as plaintiff in a case seeking over $10,700 in garnishments against a former contract employee of Salahi’s America’s Polo Cup association. A judgment for $8,250 plus interest and fees was entered against David Cope, trading as DC Sports & Sponsorship, in Judge W. Dale Houff’s courtroom on Feb. 6. Cope’s current employer, Washington’s professional soccer franchise DC United, was consequently ordered to begin garnishing 25 percent of Cope’s “disposable earnings” last spring.
A 2007 press release from DC United indicates Cope was hired as the club’s Senior Vice President of Business Development, saying he had more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience.
As explained in an Oct. 12 letter to the court from DC United Chief Financial Officer Michael Williamson, the team initially failed to begin the garnishments after being informed by Cope the matter “was a mistake” and that he had “a lawyer taking care of it.”
According to court officials, out of state claims – Cope’s court-filed addresses are listed in DC – are filed through Richmond. Attempts to reach Cope to ascertain whether he had ever received legal notice of the initial claim, and elaboration on his side of the dispute have thus far been unsuccessful.
In the face of the ongoing court order to comply with the garnishment, Williamson’s Oct. 12 letter states that the team would comply with the garnishment, taking $852.51 out of 12 consecutive bi-monthly paychecks to Cope, with a final total of $535.88 to meet the judgment total of $10,766. DC United Human Resources Officer Crissy “Ellie” Amaguana appeared at an Oct. 16 court hearing to verify the information in Williamson’s letter.
Show me the money …
According to attorney David Silek, again representing the Salahis, he expected to find a check from DC United covering garnishments made since the October hearing in the court’s possession on Dec. 18. But there were no checks to be found, leading Silek to request a “show cause” action against DC United for non-compliance with the court-ordered garnishments. Silek later explained outside the courtroom that DC United could be found in contempt or even be made responsible for the garnishment total by the court.
… Ask your client
But not so fast – as with anything surrounding the Salahis it seems, nothing is as it appears on the surface.
Contacted on Dec. 18, DC United Chief Finance Officer Williamson said Cope was still an employee of the team and that to his knowledge the court order was being complied with. Williamson said he was not personally aware of the court hearing scheduled for that day and referenced us to the team’s communications department vice president Doug Hicks for further information on the Cope garnishment situation.
Hick’s responded to our voice message left at his office by 2:30 p.m. the afternoon of the hearing. He told us that in the wake of the October hearing when DC United Human Resources Officer Amaguana was given the information with which the club was to abide by the court’s garnishment order, they were told they did not have return for any subsequent hearing if under compliance.
So where’s the money? – we asked, the court didn’t have it this morning.
Then Hicks dropped this little bombshell:
“We have sent five checks directly to Tareq Salahi and he has cashed four of them.”
Hicks declined to specify the amount of the checks, though if they followed the parameters of Williamson’s October letter to the court, each of the club’s first 12 garnishments of Cope’s bi-monthly paycheck would have $852.51 deducted for the court ordered payment. That would indicate Tareq Salahi has cashed $3,408.84 of garnishment checks sent to him, with another $852 and change in the hole for a total of $4,261.05 that Tareq has received from DC United to satisfy the judgment.
Hicks said the club had the four cancelled checks at its RFK Stadium offices and would permit the media to view them to verify their contention the payments are being made as ordered. He added that he had called both the court clerk’s office and Salahi’s attorney in the wake of receiving the information about this morning’s court hearing.
We called Salahi attorney Silek with Hicks information.
“I was unaware of that. I’ll have to check with my client,” Silek replied, adding, “I will ask the court not to file the show cause as I investigate this [upon verification].”
We gave Silek Hicks’ contact information.
About a half hour later around 3:15 p.m. Hicks called back to say he had heard from the Salahi attorney and that it appeared his information had been verified between Salahi attorney and client.
Silek then verified that his client had received four checks so far. He said that while the court order indicated the garnishment payments should have been mailed to the court clerk’s office, he had asked the court to allow the checks to continue to be sent directly to his client. Silek said he had last spoken to Tareq about the Cope judgment on Dec. 4 during the interrogatories on the lawn care judgment against the Salahis. The situation was a simple communication breakdown, Silek indicated. Silek said he had filed to withdraw the show cause against DC United.
His problems – not mine(?)
In a May 13 letter to the court, Cope states that he had just learned of the garnishment, and apparently the claim, from DC United when they approached him about the garnishment order. Cope wrote that he was hired by Tareq to work on the 2008 America’s Polo Cup in August 2007 and worked on a consulting basis until late November of that year, when he took a job in the same field with DC United.
“The America’s Polo Cup paid me a monthly retainer for each of the three months that I worked. When I stopped working for them, they stopped paying me,” Cope wrote the court.
Cope asks for direction from the court on how to contest the matter. – “I don’t owe Tareq anything. His personal financial problems are not my problem,” Cope wrote.
However, with the February judgment being made against him in his absence, Cope’s finances and those of Salahi and the America’s Polo Cup organization appear to have merged beyond the point of direction by the court, or appeal by the defendant.
One unplanned consequence of the Salahis new found celebrity in the wake of their uninvited Nov. 24 Indian State Dinner appearance at the White House and resultant Secret Service and state security scandal, was the Commonwealth of Virginia announcing an investigation of the finances of Salahi’s America’s Polo Cup organization, a business geared around an annual international polo competition between the U.S. and other nations.
According to cancelled checks in the court record, Cope’s DC Sports & Sponsorship consulting company was written three $2,750 checks, apparently signed by Tareq Salahi, on Aug. 20, Oct. 5, and Nov. 10, all in 2007. That total of $8,250, accounts for the base claim against Cope by Salahi. The first two checks were written on the account of “Virginia Wine Travel & Tourism, Oasis Enterprises. The final check was written on the account of America’s Polo Cup. That latter check lists the Salahis home address on Scenic Overlook Drive for the Polo Cup organization. The two Oasis Enterprises checks list 14139 Hume Road as the associated address.
About that watch
Silek indicated his Dec. 18 appearance for Salahi dated to an ongoing case already in the system, rather than a reconsideration of an earlier expressed media report that he had ceased to represent the couple in the wake of the Patek Phillipe watch seizure fiasco of Dec. 4. However, the attorney declined further comment on his ongoing legal relationship to the couple, whom he has represented in various matters since 2002.
Silek did comment that he was surprised by the cheap imitation status ($100) of his client’s watch turned over to satisfy a $2,063 court judgment on a lawn care maintenance bill to AIA Home Improvement and Lawn Care Service. Silek said it was his understanding the watch had been a gift from Tareq’s brother Ishmael, and that his client had believed it to be authentic when it was turned over to the court on Dec. 4 to satisfy a year-old unpaid judgment. The value of a real Patek Phillipe watch has been estimated at anywhere from $17,000 to $325,000. A 1933 Patek Phillipe pocket watch was auctioned off nearly a decade ago for over $11 million.
Attempts to reach Ishmael Salahi about his knowledge of the watch, through his mother Corinne at Oasis Vineyard, have thus far been unsuccessful.