Marc Hamid’s businesses — a pair of ticket-brokering companies and a Wrigleyville rooftop overlooking the ballpark’s right field — were a bookkeeper’s nightmare.
The question for jurors in the Lincolnwood businessman’s fraud trial is whether the sloppy accounting was intentional.
Hamid’s lawyers insist he fell victim to mistakes by unreliable business partners and employees, like a drug-abusing colleague who skimmed cash from customers at his Skybox on Sheffield and an accountant who bilked another client — a cancer patient — out of $358,000.
Federal prosecutors, who have charged Hamid with defrauding the Chicago Cubs out of $1.5 million dollars in royalty payments from 2007 to 2011, say it’s not surprising that Hamid worked with shady people.
“That’s not bad judgment,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Driscoll in closing arguments Thursday at the Dirksen Federal Building. “That’s the perfect cast of characters.”
Hamid, a former co-owner of Skybox on Sheffield, is charged with 12 counts, including mail fraud and structuring financial transactions to conceal $1.5 million he raked in from the rooftop business, revenue on which he should have paid a 17 percent royalty to the Cubs under terms of a deal the team brokered with the owners of rooftop deck owners.
The underreporting also spared Hamid from state and county amusement taxes.
Hamid’s lawyer, Chris Gair, battered two key government witnesses who brought their own share of criminal baggage to the stand.
Accountant Joseph Gurdak said he helped Hamid hide the revenue he was holding back from the club, but also admitted to an unrelated swindle in which he embezzled from a cancer patient — illicit income Gurdak also didn’t report on his own taxes.
Former Oak Park and Crestwood police officer Richard Zasiebida, who worked with Hamid at both the Skybox and Hamid’s ticket brokerage company and an illegal sport betting business, testified that he also helped Hamid with the fraud — and also that he smoked marijuana daily and once paid for a class on how to pass a polygraph test so that he could conceal his habit and get a job as a cop. Zasiebida also has pleaded guilty to not paying taxes on $160,000 in income from the ticket business and rooftop.
“(Zasiebida) lied to become a police officer, he lied to the grand jury,” Gair told jurors. “He lied to you to get to get what he wanted. What did he want? He wanted to skate” on criminal charges.
Prosecutors pointed to bank statements showing money flowing between Skybox and Hamid’s ticket companies, Just Great Tickets and Just Great Seats, as well emails between Hamid and his accountants in which he discussed how to finesse reports to hide revenue from the Cubs.
Hamid was no fan of the Cubs organization; in one email, when asked where to send the team’s royalty payments and statements, Hamid replied “Just write to the resident a—hole and they can figure it out.”
Hamid was one of two rooftop owners that sued the Cubs last year, in an attempt to stop the team from building a new scoreboard that would block the views from right field. The case was dismissed.
But it wasn’t malice or malfeasance that led Hamid to understate payouts to the ballclub, Gair said. Hamid was juggling cash among his different accounts to keep the businesses afloat.
After brief deliberations Thursday, jurors left the courthouse and were scheduled to return Friday.