Broadcom Tech Billionaire’s Latest Scandal: Drug-Trafficking Charges in Vegas

Henry Nicholas is a billionaire philanthropist. He’s also been accused of massive securities fraud and spiking the drinks of tech executives. Now, it’s alleged drug trafficking.

Richard Hartog/Getty

For years, storied tech billionaire and Broadcom co-founder Henry Nicholas III had been working to rebuild his image.

Nicholas—who was accused of massive securities fraud, spiking the drinks of other technology executives, and building a tunnel underneath his home for drugs and prostitutes—had also been using his estimated $3.1 billion fortune to donate millions of dollars to schools and bankroll legislation to expand victims’ rights.

But that’s not the side of him that emerged Tuesday night, when Nicholas and Ashley Fargo—the ex-wife of an heir to the Wells Fargo fortune—were allegedly caught with heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines in Nicholas’ Las Vegas hotel room and arrested on suspicion of narcotics trafficking.

The case was first reported to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police by security at the Encore hotel, who told police that they found “contraband” in the room, according to authorities.

Nicholas’ lawyer, David Chesnoff, declined to comment on the specifics of the case when approached by the Associated Press. He told reporters that his team is conducting its own investigation, and will “deal with the facts in court.” The Los Angeles Times notes that Chesnoff is no stranger to representing celebrities in crisis: He has previously worked with Paris Hilton, Bruno Mars, and Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil. It remains unknown if Fargo has acquired her own attorney.

Both Nicholas and Fargo have since been released on their own recognizance. According to the Orange County Register, Nicholas is scheduled to appear in court on September 5th.

But this is far from the first time that Nicholas has tangled with the law. After retiring from Broadcom, one of the world’s largest tech companies, in 20o3 to spend more time with his family, his life took an abrupt turn on June 5, 2008, when the Justice Department unsealed two shocking indictments and took him into custody.

The first, the Register notes, charged Nicholas with 21 counts of allegedly conspiring to misrepresent $2.2 billion in employee stock options. It was securities fraud, in plainer terms, a common white-collar crime.

The other indictment was anything but common. As Vanity Fair detailed in an exposé, Nicholas was also accused of four counts of drug trafficking, with federal prosecutors alleging that he had solicited prostitutes for himself and his clients, consumed all manner of illegal narcotics, and spiked the drinks of unknowing tech rivals. More than 12 people have filed court documents accusing Nicholas of even more improper conduct, including that he built a sprawling lair underneath his Laguna Hills home to host prostitutes and drug-fueled parties.

“He wanted to live above ground with his wife and three children, with the option to go below ground to immerse himself in his cocaine, ecstasy, Viagra, speed, prostitutes, and party friends,” claimed one man who said he helped build the alleged lair.

The documents, according to the Register, also included an astounding allegation that one day on his private jet, Nicholas and his associates smoked so much marijuana that the pilot was forced to use an oxygen mask.

But between 2009 and 2010, Nicholas was cleared of all the charges in both the narcotics and the fraud cases.

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In 2016, he faced verbal and physical abuse charges from ex-girlfriend Melissa Montero, who claimed that his behavior had worsened in recent years as he succumbed to drug abuse. Those charges were dropped in 2017.

But despite the myriad charges of fraud, there’s a benevolent, charitable side to Nicholas.

Nicholas retired as Broadcom’s CEO and president in 2003—but he reportedly still owns a 3 percent stake in the company, which is worth an estimated $100 billion. He’s used that money to fund a bevy of philanthropic projects, including donating $10 million to his children’s school, St. Margaret’s Episcopal, in San Juan Capistrano. The Register notes that he’s also supported Habitat for Humanity; engineering and science programs at the University of California, Irvine; and the Mt. Olive School for girls in Kenya.

He’s also bankrolled and supported a victims’ bill of rights that significantly expands the liberties awarded to victims. It requires them to be notified, for example, of any public hearing that concerns the crime they experienced, and expanded the definition of “victim” to include spouses, siblings, and parents, among others.

The bill is named for and inspired by Nicholas’ sister, Marsalee, according to the Marshall Project. In 1983, Marsalee Nicholas was stalked and murdered by an ex-boyfriend during her final year of college. Soon after Marsalee’s death, the Marshall Project added, Nicholas’ mother saw her daughter’s killer in the grocery store; the family was never informed that he had been released on bail.

Nicholas has reportedly invested more than $25 million in the controversial effort to add Marsy’s Law to the U.S. Constitution. He has already succeeded in getting a version of it on the books in California, Ohio, Illinois, North Dakota, and South Dakota, according to CBS.

The national organization behind the law attempted to distance itself from Tuesday’s scandal, noting that it’s mission is “far greater than any one person.”