Orange County Tech Billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III Charged with Drug Trafficking

By Allison Economou

Orange County tech billionaire, Henry T. Nicholas III, was arrested on Feb. 13 for drug possession and trafficking in connection with an earlier arrest made in 2018. Police found cocaine, methamphetamine, mushrooms, ecstasy, and heroin inside Nicholas’s Las Vegas hotel room.

According to a police report obtained by the Southern California News Group, Nicolas, co-founder of Broadcom, was arrested on Aug. 7 along with Ashley Fargo. The report stated that the police were called after Nicholas, who was concerned about Fargo’s safety, had difficulties getting into his hotel room. The police found Fargo lying on the bed with a semi-deflated balloon in her mouth and in an unresponsive state. According to the police, a canister of nitrous oxide, which Nicholas claimed to be for recreational use, was lying in the corner of the room.

The report stated that ingesting nitrous oxide through a balloon is a common way to use the substance as an inhalant. The police also said that they found two other cases of what appeared to be marijuana and some other narcotic.

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, Nicholas and Fargo were charged with five counts of trafficking and two counts of possessing a controlled substance. David Z. Chesnoff, the attorney representing Nicholas, argued the charges against Nicholas and Fargo were only allegations.

“The actual facts are that Dr. Nicholas is a philanthropist, an advocate for victims’ rights, a scientist and co-founder of a global company. He is not a drug trafficker. We plan to file a motion to dismiss the entire matter on a number of grounds, including lack of evidence.”

Nicholas, who co-founded semiconductor company Broadcom in the 1990s, left the company in 2003. The Singapore based chip firm Avago acquired Broadcom in February 2016 for $37 billion. Although it is now based in San Jose, the newly named Broadcom Ltd. was once based in Irvine.

This is not the only time Nicholas has been involved in drug related crimes. In June 2008, Nicholas was charged with four counts of distributing illegal drugs and twenty one counts on presiding over a conspiracy to inflate and improperly account for $2.2 billion in Broadcom employee stock options.

Nicholas plead not guilty to all charges, but his pleas were later dismissed. By the time his pleas were dismissed, the case had made national headlines.

Other allegations against Nicholas include accounts of Nicolas and his entourage smoking  large amounts of marijuana aboard his personal jet, forcing the pilot to don an oxygen mask, and accoungs of Nicholas entertaining clients with prostitutes, cocaine and ecstasy.

Following the charges being dropped, Nicholas volunteered at his children’s school, St. Margaret’s Episcopal in San Juan Capistrano, and supported the Nicholas Academic Centers, a program for underprivileged urban students.

Other organizations that benefitted from Nicholas’s philanthropy include Habitat for Humanity, Chefs Center of California, the Episcopal Church, Opera Pacific, the Pacific Symphony, the Ocean Institute and the engineering and computer science programs at UCI.

Nicholas and Fargo are scheduled to appear before the court on March 11.