One defendant, businessman Brian Higgins, remains to be tried in the federal investigation of Dayton region public corruption after prosecutors racked up guilty pleas from three individuals and two companies.
Documents filed in federal court in recent weeks outline some of the evidence prosecutors intend to use when Higgins, 49, of Dayton faces trial on March 29 before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas M. Rose.
He faces three counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of tampering with a witness, according to an indictment filed in December that replaces the two previous indictments.
Higgins previously pleaded not guilty to the three counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud but has not entered pleas on the new indictment.
Higgins allegedly defrauded insurance company Assurant out of more than $100,000 by falsely claiming that the money was being used to repair damage from a leaking fish tank on a home he co-owned on Meeker Creek Drive in Dayton. Instead prosecutors claim Higgins used the insurance money at a casino, and to pay for a planned restaurant and his phone bill.
Higgins allegedly sought assistance from a business identified in the indictment as Company A to conceal diversion of the insurance money for personal use.
Federal prosecutors recently filed motions seeking to introduce evidence, much of which his defense argues should not be admitted. Hearings on those motions are scheduled for March 10.
Higgins “inadvertently” came to the FBI’s attention in 2014 during its investigation of public corruption allegations in the Dayton region, according to prosecutors. In conversations about the alleged insurance fraud with an FBI cooperating witness identified as Individual A, Higgins said he had access to public officials who, “in return for receiving improper benefits, would be willing to assist Individual A” in obtaining work with government entities, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also say they have a recording of Higgins allegedly telling a cooperating witness identified as Individual B how to combat allegations a woman made to the city of Dayton about Individual B’s business practices.
“Mr. Higgins instructed Individual B to ‘flip it (i.e., level the same complaint) on her,’” according to the motion. “Opining that they were playing ‘chess not checkers,’ Mr. Higgins encouraged Individual B to file a defamation lawsuit against the woman.”
Higgins also allegedly suggested that Individual B make accusations to get the woman disqualified from city contracts, and to sue her and “depose the woman in a manner that painted her in a false light,” according to the motion.
After Higgins learned through the mandatory evidence discovery process that Individuals A and B were witnesses in his case, prosecutors say he retaliated against them by filing a civil lawsuit claiming breach of contract and attempting to depose them.
“Detailing a scheme to sue and silence a complainant, this recording is probative of Mr. Higgins’ true intentions — namely, to harass and to retaliate — when he filed his March 2020 lawsuit against two government witnesses,” the motion says.
Higgins attorneys, Tamara S. Sack and Paul M. Laufman, filed a motion objecting to that evidence, saying the recorded conversation and Higgins’ civil lawsuit are impermissible “character” evidence and should not be admitted.
In addition they object to admission of evidence of Higgins conversations about allegedly corrupt public officials and about liens filed on Higgins’ Meeker Creek residence.
The witnesses’ names are are not included in court documents but Higgins said Mike Marshall and Scott Waters, owners of United Demolition Excavation and Site Management of Dayton, were the witnesses against him. Higgins filed a civil lawsuit against the men and United Demolition in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in March 2020 and that case is pending.
Marshall and Waters have declined comment.
A Dayton Daily News investigation found that Higgins introduced Marshall to former Dayton City Commissioner Joey D. Williams, who then accepted a bribe in return for helping United Demolition get city contracts. The company did such poor work that the city withheld payment on those contracts.