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    Rep. Ilhan Omar’s husband accused of swindling investor in their California winery

    By Max Nesterak,


    U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Tim Mynett attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards on September 23, 2023 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference.

    In fall 2021, D.C.-area restaurant owner Naeem Mohd was presented with an unbelievable investment opportunity.

    Two political operatives-turned-venture capitalists would triple Mohd’s money in just 18 months if he invested $300,000 in their new California winery.

    The pair had been paid in grapes by a former client and had hired a well-respected Sonoma winemaker to turn those grapes into profit. They promised if they didn’t pay Mohd the full $900,000 on time, they would tack on 10% monthly interest on any outstanding balance, according to the contract shared with the Reformer .

    The offer might have seemed suspicious if not for the person making it: Tim Mynett, a well-connected political consultant and husband to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, whom he married in 2020.

    Mynett came recommended by Mohd’s attorney, Faisal Gill, a former Democratic operative himself who knew Mynett from his days working on Keith Ellison’s congressional campaigns. Mynett and Gill had been friends since. Omar endorsed Gill in his unsuccessful bid for L.A. County Attorney, and Gill donated $1,000 to Omar’s campaign in 2021.

    “I trusted Tim,” Gill said in an interview. “If it was not for Tim, the deal would have never happened.”

    Mohd wired the $300,000 to Mynett and his long-time business partner Will Hailer, with whom he founded a political consultancy called E Street Group in 2018.

    But 18 months came and went without Mohd receiving the 200% return he was promised from the winery, eStCru.

    Mynett and Hailer only returned Mohd’s $300,000 — about a month late — according to a lawsuit Gill filed on behalf of Mohd in California last fall seeking at least $780,000.

    The complaint, which has not been previously reported, claims the pair “fraudulently misrepresented … that estCru, LLC was a legitimate company.”

    Hailer and Mynett deny they defrauded Mohd. Rather, they say they simply struggled to build a successful business in a challenging industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “ESTCRU LLC like many wineries is living invoice to invoice, sale to sale to stay afloat given the economic conditions of the industry,” Hailer wrote in response to a list of questions from the Reformer . Hailer declined requests for an interview on the phone.


    The winery’s struggling finances represent a significant change in fortune for Mynett and Hailer since Omar announced she would no longer use their firm E Street Group on her campaigns after paying them around $3 million in the 2020 election.

    Still, Hailer defended the potential for large returns in the wine business, writing, “If any investor put $X dollars in to allow the company to purchase grapes and we turned those grapes into bottles of wine that we sold you would see a 3 or 4x return.”

    Within minutes of Hailer sending responses to the Reformer ’s questions, lawyers for Mynett and Hailer followed up with a three-page letter saying they had been retained to “help ensure that defamatory falsehoods are not published about them.”

    “Any suggestion that Will or Tim deliberately defrauded investors or otherwise consciously conspired to rip people off would be false and defamatory,” wrote attorneys Mark Thomson and Andy Phillips with the law firm Meier Watkins Phillips Pusch.

    eStCru did produce a line of wines with names like Blockchain, Overt and The Devil’s Lie with their winemaker Erica Stancliff, who left a job at a prestigious vineyard to work with Hailer and Mynett.

    Hailer sent the Reformer a brochure listing eStCru’s accolades and noted Wine Business Monthly called eStCru a hot brand of 2022 .

    Stancliff said things were going well from her point of view until early 2023, when she stopped getting paid.

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

    She said she continued working without pay for several months hoping things would turn around for her and her coworkers, but eventually she couldn’t afford to wait any longer and resigned.

    Hailer said eStCru has never had any employees working without pay. When asked about Stancliff, he clarified that “As the economic conditions wreaked havoc on the industry we had a few former employees who wanted to stay with the company and weather the storm as contractors.”

    Hailer acknowledged that Stancliff is owed money: “I do believe that as a contractor she may have invoices that may not be current.”

    Mynett and Hailer say they are now working to sell the intellectual property and trademarks associated with the brand.

    $1.2 million for weed ventures goes up in smoke

    A short-lived winery isn’t the only source of financial trouble and litigation for companies connected to Hailer and Mynett.

    In April 2023, soon after Stancliff said she stopped getting paid and Mohd was due a big payday that never came, three of Hailer and Mynett’s other companies agreed to pay $1.7 million to three South Dakota marijuana entrepreneurs to settle a lawsuit alleging fraud and breach of contract.

    The companies — eSt Ventures, Badlands Fund GP and Badlands Ventures — only paid $500,000. That led to a confession of judgment last fall, not previously reported, which was signed by Hailer, with the companies admitting they still owe $1.2 million.

    The marijuana entrepreneurs and their investors are now suing Hailer and the companies in Nebraska, where Hailer lives, for the remainder.

    Mynett was mentioned in the lawsuit but not named as a defendant. He wrote in an email that he withdrew from eSt Ventures in early 2022, “because I wasn’t active in any of the work (securing investment, placing investment or even structure).” The company is now listed as “inactive” because it’s delinquent on its business filing fee in Nebraska.

    Consistent with Mynett’s response, the companies don’t appear on Omar’s 2023 disclosure.

    Although the business is typically called eSt Ventures, Omar lists an “EstVenture LLC” on her disclosures in previous years. She reported spousal income from EstVenture of $5,001-$15,000 in 2021 and $15,001-$50,000 in 2022 .

    In her latest congressional financial disclosure filed in May , Omar reported spousal income in 2023 of $201-$1,000 from eStCru and $15,0001-$50,000 from Rose Lake Capital, a venture capital management firm founded by Mynett and Hailer.

    The modest sums stand in stark contrast to the income Omar reported when she was paying her husband’s political consulting firm millions for campaign work.

    Omar reported spousal income from E Street Group ranging from $100,001 to $1 million in both 2020 and 2021.

    In an email to the Reformer , Mynett said he and Will began to pivot from politics to business in order to test advertising strategies that could then inform political strategies. He said they were “incredibly successful” at digital advertising and targeting — skills that could be transferred to business success.

    Mynett said he was also confronted with a barrage of harassment and intimidation by “MAGA extremists” since marrying Omar and felt it was in his best interest to get out of politics.

    In the beginning, Mynett said he and Hailer agreed to a 50-50 split between eSt Ventures and other business prospects.

    Hailer and Mynett were also co-managers of a company called Born to Run GP LLC, which purported to control a $50 million investment fund, according to a management services contract between eSt Ventures LLC and Born to Run obtained by the Reformer . Born to Run does not appear on Omar’s financial disclosures.

    Hailer said the fund did not end up having $50 million but does have active investments. Mynett said he withdrew from Born to Run at the same time he left eSt Ventures in early 2022 and never received any compensation from the company.

    Omar’s office has not yet responded to a list of questions the Reformer sent last week. A spokesperson for the congresswoman said they would respond on Monday and then said the answers would come on Tuesday morning.

    From OFAC to missing zeroes

    Around the time Mynett said he left eSt Ventures is when the cannabis entrepreneurs say they were lured into business with Hailer with similarly fantastical promises made to the winery investor.

    605 Cannabis Founder Ned Horsted said Hailer approached him with an offer to raise millions for his cannabis venture. Horsted and another cannabis business — led by Josh Wood and Bekki Engquist-Schroeder — had already raised $3.54 million from friends, acquaintances and even grandparents to capitalize on the state’s new medicinal marijuana program.

    If the three turned over their $3.54 million, Hailer told them, eSt Ventures could more than triple their capital within days or weeks to fund two grow operations and a testing facility. Hailer said eSt Ventures had secured $6 million from outside South Dakota and another $1.5 million was expected from within the state, according to the lawsuit settled in Minnesota.

    Horsted, who also had a brief career as a political operative, had met Hailer at the Minnesota DFL headquarters in 2010, and was impressed with Hailer’s connections and convinced by his pitch.

    “He tells a great story,” Horsted said of Hailer in an interview. “It made sense in my mind. If you’re well connected, you could pick up the phone and get someone to give $100,000 to a campaign, you could probably get that same kind of money for a business venture.”

    The three cannabis entrepreneurs turned over everything they had to a new affiliate of eSt Ventures called Badlands Ventures LLC.

    All through the summer of 2022, Hailer told the entrepreneurs and their investors that the millions in investments were just weeks away from being secured for their two marijuana companies, Dakota Natural Growers and 605 Cannabis. As the excuses began piling up, Horsted said he tried to reach out to Mynett via direct messages on LinkedIn and Twitter, but got no reply.

    Horsted and his business partners said in their lawsuit they don’t believe that Badlands Ventures brought in any other money to capitalize the companies.

    In August 2022, according to court documents, Badlands returned $1.86 million of the entrepreneurs $3.54 million “in exchange for promissory notes convertible into equity units in their cannabis businesses.” In other words, Hailer used the entrepreneurs’ own money to buy a stake in their businesses.

    Later that month, Hailer promised to wire hundreds of thousands of dollars to Dakota and 605 but couldn’t at the moment because the Office of Foreign Assets Control had placed a hold on the funds.

    That explanation confused the owners of Dakota and 605. The Office of Foreign Assets Control is a federal agency under the U.S. Treasury Department that enforces economic and trade sanctions. It investigates and penalizes companies for illegally dealing with foreign adversaries like Russia, Iran and North Korea.

    Hailer, citing a settlement agreement, declined to comment on the Treasury Department hold on their money.

    Through September, Hailer assured them the money was just days away. He told them on Sept. 6 that he was “waiting on a call back from the bank that we can move the money today.” On Sept. 26, Hailer said, “I just landed a call into the bank. I personally hit send on wires Friday afternoon.” The money didn’t arrive.

    In October, Hailer said he had to go to the hospital but continued his assurances that the money would be transferred right away, according to the lawsuit. He said he tried to wire $1 million to each company but it ran up against the bank’s limit so he would wire them the money in chunks.

    “Rest assured — $500k min will be to you tomorrow and the other $500k if not tomorrow [then] the next day,” Hailer said, according to the lawsuit.

    Each company received just $50,000, which Hailer attributed to the bank forgetting a zero. But they never received another transfer.

    In November 2022, through an attorney, Dakota and 605’s founders and investors requested to see Badlands Ventures’ bank accounts. They were entitled to see the company’s books as a part of their contract, but Hailer’s attorney refused, according to the lawsuit.

    Horsted, his business partner and their investors filed that lawsuit in Minnesota the following month seeking the rest of their $3.5 million. Now they are hoping to win back their $1.2 million through the lawsuit they filed in Nebraska, while they continue to grow the medical marijuana businesses on a shoestring.

    “We’re surviving but it’s been very difficult.” Horsted said.

    ‘The prowess to execute the right opportunities’

    But discovery documents in that case show Hailer’s businesses have little in their bank accounts. According to answers Hailer provided in court documents in February this year, eSt Ventures had 5 cents in its bank account.

    Rose Lake Capital had $42.44 and Rose Lake Inc. had $10. ESTCRU had $650. Hailer’s personal checking account had $3.05.

    “Running a business is hard and I’ve learned that the hard way,” Hailer wrote in an email to the Reformer . “In all my business struggles, though, I’ve always tried to put my employees, contractors, and investors first.”

    Hailer said he could have taken the easy route, by declaring bankruptcy, but has stuck it out for the best outcomes for his investors and workers.

    While Mynett says he withdrew from eSt Ventures in early 2022, he and Hailer didn’t stop doing business together. The pair incorporated Rose Lake Capital, the international venture capital firm, in Delaware later that year.

    Hailer said Rose Lake Capital is now a “dormant entity” because they transitioned the company from an LLC to a public benefit corporation called Rose Lake Inc., which focuses on socially responsible investing.

    The company’s website touts “exclusive partnerships for global operators” and “on-the-ground experience in more than 75 countries.”

    The website lists Hailer and Mynett as co-founders with Democratic political consultant Alex Hoffman and an impressive lineup of advisors, including a former U.S. ambassador to Bahrain, a former CEO of Amalgamated Bank, and former U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.

    “From distressed assets to buying publicly traded companies – our team has the prowess to execute the right opportunities,” its website says.

    The post Rep. Ilhan Omar’s husband accused of swindling investor in their California winery appeared first on Minnesota Reformer .

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