In a dizzying scheme that could have been lifted from a Coen brothers’ film, Phillips — according to federal prosecutors, a jury, and an appeals court — shuttled more than $1.5 million from the coffers of MOD Systems, a Seattle tech startup, to his own pockets. Starting in January of 2008, prosecutors say the over-enterprising entrepreneur used fake invoices for non-existent consulting services to send $100,000 to his girlfriend via his lawyer. That money was used to pay for a pair of lavish wristwatches, investment in another startup, and an “earnest money deposit” on a Seattle condo he was purchasing. Later, to make a down payment on his would-be condo, Phillips told MOD’s vice president of finance that the company’s board had approved the transfer of $1.5 million into his own bank account, even though his requests for that money had been twice snubbed.
The latter, larger theft was soon discovered, prompting an internal investigation within MOD. Eventually the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI went after Phillips, and he served four years in prison.
While Phillips reportedly was able to give much of the money back, in November of 2014, Judge John C. Coughenour of the US District Court at Western Washington “ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED” that Phillips’ 4% ownership of Quinn’s Pub and any dividends since 2007 be seized and auctioned-off by the US Marshals. The Marshals’ Complex Asset Unit is giving would-be bidders until February 9th to register for the sale; bidding will start at the price of one of Phillips’ erstwhile wristwatches and will continue through March 13th.
Given the relatively small level of ownership in Quinn’s, it’s unlikely Phillips had anything to do with those sloppy joes but the sale does provide some insight into the world of Capitol Hill’s burgeoning entertainment economy and restaurant and bar investment. Calculating from the $30,000 minimum bid set by the Feds, you can place a minimum value on Quinn’s of around $750,000. The stake is likely worth more.
Phillips initially responded to request for comment, saying “[M]y attorney and I have a lot to say,”
but then did not respond to further communication from CHS. The management of Quinn’s did not respond to requests for comment.
UPDATE: Phillips tells CHS that he was an investor and patron of Quinn’s, but was not involved in management. He gave us the following statement:
I respect the work of chef owner Scott Staples and told him that I would invest in another venture if the opportunity presented itself. When it did, it was called Quinn’s. I was disappointed that the government seized the ownership through civil forfeiture.