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White House Dinner Crasher, Tareq Salahi, One of 15 Hand-picked
 Board Members for the State of Virginia's Tourism Authority
.

By David Ress, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

November 28, 2009 --The polo promoter and one-time winery operator who crashed President Barack Obama's first state dinner is one of 15 hand-picked Virginians who shape the state's tourism policy.

Tareq Salahi and his ex-model wife Michaele, already had cut a wide swath in Northern Virginia.

"There's a video out there of Tareq opening a champagne bottle with a saber," said Casey Margenau, a McLean, Va.-based real estate agent and longtime friend of Tareq Salahi. "That's him. That's his personality."

His fight with his mother for control over Oasis Winery, in Fauquier County, is now in bankruptcy court.

He's been on the board of the Virginia Tourism Corp. since 2006.

"I probably shouldn't comment," board Chairman Cal Simmons said when asked if the state entity had any guidelines about whether executives of bankrupt firms should serve.

Board members are appointed by the governor. Gordon Hickey, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's press secretary, said because yesterday was a state holiday, he had no access to Salahi's file.

Salahi's mother, Corinne, has been trying to reorganize the winery, Oasis Vineyards Inc., under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since December 2008.

In February, Salahi filed to liquidate his business, Oasis Enterprises Inc. His filing says his company also used the name Oasis Winery.

The filing also lists as assets money allegedly owed to him by Oasis Vineyards.

One phone number that the Virginia Tourism Corp. lists for Salahi rings at the winery, where an employee hosting a tasting yesterday said Salahi has no connection with the operation.

The other number the tourism agency lists for him has been disconnected.

Salahi did not respond to an e-mail sent to him at the polo association he founded, which a Middleburg caterer last year sued for more than $304,000 in allegedly unpaid bills, according to his bankruptcy filing.

His bankruptcy filing reports more than $965,000 in debt and assets of just less than $335,000. The biggest asset he reported was $224,000 that he said is owed to him by Oasis Vineyards for renting a suite and catering for Redskins football games.

He reported his business income for the 12 months before the filing at $35,000.

Contact David Ress at (804) 649-6051 or dress @timesdispatch.com.

Bloomberg News Service and The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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To see more of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.timesdispatch.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

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