DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Crime

Billionaire Drug Bust

Broadcom's co-founder charged in tawdry narcotics indictment

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Billionaire Drug Bust

JUNE 5--A technology billionaire was a drug fiend who trafficked in cocaine, Ecstasy, and methamphetamine, spiked the drinks of business associates and employees, hired prostitutes for himself and others, and maintained several narcotics dens, including one in an underground lair at his Los Angeles mansion, prosecutors charge.

In a remarkable federal indictment unsealed today in Los Angeles, Broadcom co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III is portrayed as an out-of-control wild man who scored drug caches for Super Bowl parties and rock festivals and had his dealer invoice him for these illicit purchases. A copy of the felony drug conspiracy indictment against Nicholas, who is reportedly worth about $2 billion, can be found here.

The 48-year-old Nicholas, who was charged with securities fraud in a separate U.S. District Court case, allegedly 'used threats of physical violence and death and payments of money to attempt to conceal his unlawful conduct,' according to the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that, in June 2002, Nicholas and Broadcom entered into a $1 million settlement agreement with an employee who was aware of the executive's 'unlawful narcotics activity.' The hefty payout, which Broadcom covered, contractually prevented the employee from speaking about Nicholas's drug abuse.

The billionaire apparently did little to conceal his drug transactions. On one occasion, in the lobby of Broadcom's southern California headquarters, he directed an employee to provide cash to a courier 'in exchange for an envelope containing controlled substances,' the indictment charges. On a drug-fueled 2001 private plane flight--during which Nicholas allegedly used and distributed narcotics--the pilot was forced to don an oxygen mask due to the 'marijuana smoke and fumes.'

According to a March 2008 Forbes story, Nicholas, with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion, is ranked 677 on the list of the world's wealthiest individuals. (18 pages)