By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
When the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council handed out medals for bravery in May, the honored officers and firefighters got their awards and a handshake from a convicted felon on federal supervised release.
Lewis Stahl, who was in federal custody only seven months earlier, was ordered to federal prison on September 9, 2019 following his conviction for evading millions of dollars in personal income taxes.
Stahl siphoned off $21 million from his medical technology company, NextGen Management LLC, and spent it on “personal items such as clothing, jewelry, watches, real estate rentals, country club benefits and a firearms collection,” prosecutors told Stahl’s sentencing judge. For years, they said, he didn’t even bother filing a tax return.
Stahl isn’t the only member of the nonprofit sheriff’s advisory council to be sent to a federal prison that year. In fact, one former member is still behind bars.
Stahl helped hand out Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council (BSAC) medals because he is vice chairman of the board of directors of the elite, pay-to-play group whose members enjoy the benefit of carrying BSO “advisory deputy” badges and ID cards.
Members pay a $5,000 initiation fee plus $750 in annual dues to join the charitable group that provides funds to the families of fallen police and firefighters, as well as specialized training, technology and equipment for BSO and other police agencies.
Members can also opt to pay up to $50,000 to join what’s called the “Diamond Chairman’s Circle,” the top tier of membership with extra benefits, including the opportunity to speak at BSAC events.
SHERIFF TONY OK’S FELON’S RETURN
This is not Stahl’s first go-round on BSAC’s board. He was a board member when he was convicted of tax evasion in federal court in New York City on Sept. 27, 2018. Under the council’s bylaws, a director is “automatically terminated” if he or she is “convicted of a felony.” Stahl, who pleaded guilty, also resigned his BSAC membership.
But termination at BSAC apparently doesn’t necessarily last forever.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, of all people, OK’d the wealthy convicted felon’s reinstatement to the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council. He approved Stahl for a new BSO ID card and “deputy” badge despite a mandatory BSO background check that undoubtedly revealed Stahl’s conviction.
Why? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that one month before Stahl was carted off to FCI Miami, a low security federal prison in southwest Miami-Dade, his NextGen Management donated $10,000 to Sheriff Tony’s Broward First political committee, according to state election records.
Stahl’s donation was received Aug. 20, 2019 – two days after Tony defeated former Sheriff Scott Israel in a hotly contested primary race, virtually assuring Tony’s victory against a weak Republican challenger in the November general election.
BSAC’s board of directors likewise approved Stahl for membership, and ultimately put him back on the board.
BSAC chairman Marvin Andrew “Andy” Mitchell, owner of a Fort Lauderdale development company, said in response to emailed questions that “All board members have passed very thorough BSO background checks. If you do not pass the background check, you can’t be a member.”
Typically, passing a background check means the person being investigated doesn’t have a criminal conviction – or at least not a felony conviction. Mitchell did not respond when asked how the council defines what it means to pass a BSO background check, and whether the Sheriff’s Advisory Council is concerned that one of its board members is a felon.
STAHL PAID ZERO TAXES ON $21 MILLION INCOME
Here’s what BSAC’s bylaws say about the process: “All applicants for membership must submit a formal background check with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and, receive approval from BSO in order to receive BSO credentials. Membership is predicated on individuals passing the background check. Approval for membership shall be by majority vote of the Board of Directors after the applicant’s background investigation has been received.”
Court papers say Stahl, owner of both NextGen and its affiliate DX Web Management, neglected to pay taxes on $21 million in income from 2010 to 2014. Indeed, Stahl “deliberately avoided filing tax returns, and did not report a dime of income” to the Internal Revenue Service until an IRS revenue agent caught up with him in March 2015.
In response, Stahl hired a CPA, lied to him, then caused the filing of false tax returns that “substantially understated” his income. Another year passed before Stahl, through his lawyer, acknowledged those falsehoods, court papers say.
“Stahl was the sole architect and beneficiary of this tax fraud scheme, in which he brazenly cheated the system to line his own pockets,” prosecutors told the judge.
In March 2019, Stahl was sentenced to 30-months’ imprisonment and fined $75,000. He was also ordered to pay the IRS $6.35 million in restitution, which he did. Stahl didn’t go to prison until six months later.
CONFINEMENT IN ‘TROPICAL COURTYARD PARADISE’
Records show that on April 24, 2020, amid the terrible early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, FCI Miami transferred Stahl to home confinement after he’s served less than eight months in prison. Here’s how Redfin describes Stahl’s two-story home, valued at up to $2.4 million, where Stahl served out his sentence:
“Located on a private corner, a double door opens into this tropical courtyard paradise offering a freeform pool, spa & waterfalls! The private courtyard leads to an elegant home of 3 bedrooms + office & 3 baths in the main house & a bedroom & bath in the guest house. This lovely home is neutral & light featuring vaulted ceilings, Saturnia marble floors, neutral carpeting, a beautiful built-in office/library, an open kitchen with 42” light oak cabinetry, granite counters, roll-out in the pantry & a charming breakfast nook overlooking the courtyard.”
Today, as a felon on supervised release, Stahl regularly reports to the U.S. Probation Office, whose job it is to ensure compliance with the conditions of his release.
Stahl returned to BSAC’s board shortly after his home confinement ended. His wife, Helene Fried Stahl, is also on BSAC’s board. His son, Evan Stahl, and daughter-in-law, Yenise Stahl are also BSAC members.
BSAC has approximately 150 members, including 15 board members plus Sheriff Tony who is a non-voting, ex-officio member.
SECOND TAX CHEAT USED BSAC LETTERS TO INFLUENCE JUDGE
Lewis Stahl isn’t the only Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council member to go to federal prison in 2019. Ralph Nabavi, the CEO of DNJ Logistics Group, with offices in Miami Springs and Coral Springs, pleaded guilty to income tax evasion in April of that year.
From 2013-2015, Nabavi’s freight-shipping company received “tens of millions of dollars from contracts with a private interstate shipping carrier,” according to his plea agreement with the government. “During the relevant period, Ralph Nabavi transferred millions of dollars from DNJ’s accounts to his personal accounts.”
Bank records showed Nabavi blew much of that money at casinos, court records say.
In his pre-sentence packet to U.S. Chief Judge Cecilia Altonaga seeking leniency, Nabavi included several “Dear Ralph” letters he’d received from the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council.
“Thank you for your February 25, 2017 donation of the 2016 Polaris Slingshot (a three-wheeled motorcycle) that was auctioned for $40,000 at the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council’s gala, A Tribute to Bravery,” says one letter signed by then-chairman James Robertson.
NABAVI GETS OUT, ARRESTED AGAIN
Nabavi, a Pinecrest resident, faced up to five years in prison for filing a false tax return in 2014 in which he reported only a fraction of the $6 million he milked from DNJ that year. In August 2019, Altonaga sentenced him to 19 months in prison, followed by supervised release for three years. He was also ordered to pay the government $3.5 million in restitution. It is unclear how much of that he has repaid, if any.
Nabavi began his jail term in September 2019. He was released in 2021 but is back behind bars today.
Miami-Dade police arrested Nabavi on May 19, 2022 and charged him with a trio of felonies – grand theft of cargo, dealing in stolen property and participating in an organized scheme to defraud.
The U.S. Probation Office moved the same day to revoke Nabavi’s supervised release.
On June 13, after a brief trial, Judge Altonaga agreed, ordering Nabavi back to prison for 18 months on the federal charges. When he gets out, he’ll be on probation for another 18 months.
The state charges against Nabavi are pending.