Ilhan Omar’s husband accused of defrauding investor in connection with short-lived wine company

News & Politics

The husband of Rep. Ilhan Omar, a far-left Democrat who represents Minneapolis and some of its suburbs, has been accused of failing to honor the terms of an investment contract he and a business associate made with a restaurant owner, according to a shocking report from the Minnesota Reformer earlier this month.

Mynett claimed that he left political consulting after ‘MAGA extremists’ continually harassed him for his marriage to Omar.

In March 2020, Omar married her third husband, Tim Mynett, a political consultant well-connected within Minnesota Democrat circles.

At the time, Omar paid nearly $3 million to E Street Group, a political consulting firm owned by Mynett and Will Hailer, for her 2020 campaign. Because of the apparent impropriety of the arrangement, Omar announced later that year that she would no longer use E Street Group.

‘A snapshot of new trends’: Mynett joins forces with restauranteur

About a year later, Mynett and Hailer convinced Naeem Mohd, who owns a restaurant in the D.C.-area, to invest $300,000 in their nascent wine company called eStCru. In exchange, Mynett and Hailer promised Mohd that he would receive his original investment plus a 200% return — a total of $900,000 — in just 18 short months. Should Mynett and Hailer default, they would tack 10% interest each month on any outstanding balance.

The terms of the contract may seem outrageous, but Mynett and Hailer were apparently in dire straits. A former client had paid them in grapes, and they were desperate to turn those grapes into wine, the Reformer reported. To that end, they hired Erica Stancliff, described by the Reformer as “a well-respected Sonoma winemaker,” to head eStCru.

At first, eStCru seemed to be doing well. It began offering a line of wines with names like Blockchain, Overt, and The Devil’s Lie, and was even featured among Wine Business Monthly‘s list of “Hot Brands” of 2022. However, W. Blake Gray, editor of online wine outlet Wine-Searcher, noted that such accolades are not necessarily indicative of “business success.”

“It’s more a snapshot of new trends in the wine industry,” Gray wrote.

That seems to have been the case with eStCru, which quickly turned sour after that short burst of success. Revenue at the company was so limited by early 2023 that Stancliff even reportedly worked for months without pay before ultimately resigning.

“It happened very abruptly,” Stancliff said, according to the Reformer. “I couldn’t even tell you exactly how it happened other than we hit a wall and the reserve was no longer there.”

The dramatic changes in revenue at eStCru are reflected in Omar’s tax filings. She declared between $65,000 and $150,000 in spousal income from eStCru in 2021 and 2022 but no more than $1,000 from it in 2023.

As tight as money was, Mynett and Hailer did manage to pay back Mohd’s original $300,000 investment, though they allegedly did so about a month late. They also reportedly never paid any of the promised interest.

Mohd later sued, claiming that Mynett and Hailer “fraudulently misrepresented … that estCru, LLC was a legitimate company.” He is seeking $780,000.

Mynett and Hailer are still trying to sell the “intellectual property and trademarks” associated with eStCru, the Reporter said.

In an email, Hailer told the Reformer that “ESTCRU LLC like many wineries is living invoice to invoice, sale to sale to stay afloat given the economic conditions of the industry.” He also admitted that eStCru may owe Stancliff backpay.

Mynett claimed that he left political consulting after “MAGA extremists” continually harassed him for his marriage to Omar. He also insisted that he and Hailer have since become “incredibly successful” at digital advertising and targeting, the Reformer said.

Attorneys Mark Thomson and Andy Phillips, who represent Mynett and Hailer, added: “Any suggestion that Will or Tim deliberately defrauded investors or otherwise consciously conspired to rip people off would be false and defamatory.”

‘Deception’: Controversy carries over to Omar’s 2024 campaign

Omar has not responded to the Reformer’s request for comment. There are no reports that she was personally involved in the financial agreement between Mynett, Hailer, and Mohd.

Still, her opponent in the 2024 election has made her husband’s seemingly shady business deals a campaign issue. At a press conference on June 6, Don Samuels, a Democrat former Minneapolis city councilman, accused Omar of engaging in “deception.”

“Representative Omar has used her time for three terms in Congress — what many would consider the opportunity and honor of a lifetime — to divide our community and enrich herself in the process,” Samuels said.

“Based on the Reformer story, it looks like there’s very little money in the recorded entities that are on disclosures, and potentially millions of dollars in the underlying entities that are not exposed,” one of Samuels’ campaign associates added.

Omar, Mynett, and several ‘marijuana entrepreneurs’

The Reformer also noted that other companies founded by Hailer and Mynett are currently embroiled in a separate alleged fraud controversy in connection with several “marijuana entrepreneurs” in South Dakota. In April 2023, these companies — eSt Ventures, Badlands Fund GP, and Badlands Ventures — agreed to pay the investors $1.7 million to settle a lawsuit for alleged breach of contract.

However, only $500,000 has been paid. Last fall, Hailer signed a confession of judgment, admitting that the companies still owed the entrepreneurs $1.2 million.

Mynett was named in the lawsuit but not as a defendant. He separated from eSt Ventures in early 2022, telling the Reformer that he was not “active in any of the work (securing investment, placing investment or even structure).” The company is now listed as “inactive” since it owes fees to the state of Nebraska.

Omar did not list eSt Ventures on any tax filings but did list a company called “EstVenture LLC.” She claimed between $5,001 and $15,000 in spousal income associated with EstVenture LLC in 2021 and between $15,001 and $50,000 in 2022. She did not list the LLC in her 2023 filing.

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