An assistant to late Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh accused of enabling his drug addiction to enrich herself while he spiraled into psychosis, was previously charged with drug dealing, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Jennifer ‘Mimi’ Pham, who claims she was Hsieh’s ‘right-hand person’ for 17 years, was charged with selling and transporting controlled substances in 2000, court records show.
The 41-year-old is currently being sued by Hsieh’s family, who claim she ‘manipulated’ and ‘squeezed’ millions of dollars out of her friend and boss even as he fell into a ketamine and nitrous oxide addiction that left him so delusional he barricaded himself in a shed and lit a fire that killed him in November 2020.
San Mateo County Superior Court records show Pham cut a deal in 2001 over the three felony charges with prosecutors, who dropped two after she pleaded guilty to one count of ‘felony possession of a controlled substance for sale.’
The bombshell revelations come after DailyMail.com published emails showing Pham questioning one of Hsieh’s employees over his $3,138.70 purchase of ‘whippits’, nitrous oxide canisters Hsieh allegedly used up to 50 times a day leaving him in a deluded mania.
Jennifer ‘Mimi’ Pham (center) is accused of enabling former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s drug addiction to enrich herself in the months before his tragic death last year. Pham is pictured with the late entrepreneur (left) and his former aide Holly McNamara (right) in 2010
Hsieh’s family has filed a lawsuit against his assistant (pictured together in 2014) accusing her of exploiting the troubled billionaire’s drug addiction to ‘squeeze’ him out of millions in his final weeks
Pham denies any wrongdoing, including the Hsieh family’s legal claims that she abused her fiduciary duty to her boss in his final months last year, allegedly extracting vast sums through exorbitant commissions and bogus investment deals.
But friends of the late entrepreneur, who was worth $840million, have now given exclusive interviews to DailyMail.com revealing that around 2010 they found bank statements showing Pham writing herself checks for tens of thousands of dollars from Hsieh’s account.
The friends, who are going on the record for the first time about the dark and tragic story behind the near-billionaire’s demise, claimed Pham jealously guarded Hsieh, spreading rumors and alienating anyone who got ‘too close’ to him, lied to her boss, and reveled in a debauched lifestyle of drugs, booze and parties funded by the Zappos ex-CEO.
But while lamenting his eventual downward spiral and death, the close friends described Hsieh as a generous, loving and kind man, and a genius who put in practice revolutionary ideas and changed the lives of those around him for the better.
Holly McNamara worked as Hsieh’s assistant and public relations aide around the launch of his book, Delivering Happiness, in 2010, and Patricia Henry was hired as a masseuse and assistant for the entrepreneur in his avant-garde trailer park community in Downtown Las Vegas.
Photos obtained by DailyMail.com show the billionaire had grown emaciated in the months leading up to his death. A June 2020 photo shows a slim Hsieh with cannisters of nitrous oxide know as ‘whippits’ on the table to his right
The family’s legal filing described how Hsieh’s living conditions became increasingly hellish as he spiraled mentally and physically. He is pictured above in June 2020
Hsieh, who was worth an estimated $840million died last November after barricading himself in a pool shed in New London, Connecticut (on the right) which later went up in flames
The two women said they were at first excited and grateful to be brought into Hsieh’s close circle and to be a part of his ambitious plans to revitalize downtown Vegas.
But they said they soon discovered that the multi-millionaire’s entourage were not all so welcoming or benevolent.
‘What happened towards the end [of Hsieh’s life] magnified 100 times what I experienced, but I was the first one to see it first-hand. It’s been eating at me for a decade,’ McNamara said.
She described one incident in 2010 when Pham gave her and Henry a box of files to dispose of.
‘She said “you need to throw this away, it’s trash.” It was all Tony’s prior three years’ bank records.
‘We were like, “you can’t throw this away.” So we were looking through it. She was writing checks to herself,’ McNamara told DailyMail.com.
‘She would pay the landscaper, for example, an exact amount for an invoice, say $11,200. She wrote a check to him, then directly below it you could see a copy of a check to herself, pretending to reimburse herself, when she had already paid the landscaper with Tony’s money.
‘Over and over again, hundreds of thousands of dollars of checks written to herself.
‘I didn’t know what to do with it. When I approached Tony about anything controversial he never wanted to talk about it.’
Holly McNamara (pictured with Hsieh) who had worked as his assistant and public relations aide, accused Pham of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2010
McNamara (far left) worked alongside Hsieh around the launch of his book, Delivering Happiness, in 2010
‘She was a signer on his account,’ Henry added. ‘Some months it would be $15,000, some months $20,000, some months back to $10,000.
‘She wrote in memos “gardener”, but she would write it to herself. Keep in mind, Vegas has no lawns or horticulture or trees. It’s the desert. There was no lawn for gardening. So we were a little in shock.’
Henry described how they unsuccessfully tried to warn Hsieh about the alleged checks.
‘We went out on a cabana near the pool and Holly confronted him casually and carefully. She said, “We’re confused about some paperwork Patricia had to throw away. It looks like Mimi’s writing herself checks for $20,000.”
‘Tony hates conflict. He became uncomfortable right away, from his body language and facial expressions. His head tilted down, ashamed.
‘He avoided the conversation, he changed the subject, he didn’t want to talk about it. He just didn’t want to confront Mimi about what we discovered.
‘It became uncomfortable for Holly and I to bring up that she was stealing from him.
‘He avoided the whole thing and kept numbing himself some more with alcohol.’
The masseuse, who also worked in a general assistant role for Hsieh booking his flights and stocking his limousines with vodka, claimed that Pham helped supply her boss with marijuana.
McNamara told DailyMail.com that Pham (pictured together right) allegedly asked her to toss out a box containing Hsieh’s bank records which she claims showed Pham had been writing checks to herself from her boss’s accounts
McNamara (pictured far right with Hsieh and friends in an old photo) was introduced to Hsieh in 2004 and also became friends with Pham several years before she started working for him
‘She had mentioned supplying drugs. At one point there was a drawer full of marijuana in his closet,’ Henry said.
‘She was in a conversation with Tony, I was in the kitchen. He was like, “Hey, I’m getting low on some things, and she was just like ‘I’ll take care of it.” It wasn’t direct.’
In December 2000 Pham, then age 20, was charged with felony sale of a controlled substance, felony possession of a controlled substance for sale, and felony transportation of a controlled substance, and bailed out for $50,000.
Pham initially pleaded not guilty in January the following year, but on February 22, 2001 she entered a guilty plea for felony possession of a controlled substance for sale, and the DA told the court they were dropping the other two charges as the result of a plea deal.
A source close to Pham told DailyMail.com the drug conviction resulted from being pulled over while driving with her allegedly abusive boyfriend at the time who was carrying drugs, and that she was only ‘guilty by association’.
‘Mimi was never arrested for drugs found on her,’ the source said.
‘She was the victim of domestic abuse and as part of her sentencing was required to attend a domestic abuse support group, with the ex-boyfriend required to attend anger management courses.’
The source added that the conviction two decades ago had no link to her relationship with Hsieh.
DailyMail.com can also reveal Pham was charged with felony drug charges when she was 20 in December 2000 and bailed out for $50,000
She initially pleaded not guilty in January the following year, but on February 22, 2001 she entered a guilty plea for felony possession of a controlled substance for sale
As well as smoking marijuana, friends said Hsieh would drink large amounts of alcohol, and always had a bottle of Grey Goose vodka nearby.
‘He had a three-story library filled with grey goose bottles when I first started working for him,’ Henry said.
‘I’ve always seen a little tiny bit of decline with Tony. Initially with the alcoholism, I would notice the whites of his eyes were turning a little bit yellow, and that was 11 years ago.’
The masseuse said she felt unable to share her worries with Hsieh for fear she would be kicked out of his close circle by Pham.
‘I wanted to bring it up to him but I never got a quiet opportunity to say hey I’m worried about you, about your liver,’ she said. ‘I wouldn’t be allowed in the circle, you had to be very careful at that point, because of Mimi. Mimi took over.’
McNamara was introduced to Hsieh in 2004 and also became friends with Pham several years before she started working for him, regularly traveling from her home in San Diego, California, to party with her at Pham’s Los Angeles apartment.
However the former assistant said she became suspicious when Pham asked her not to tell her boss that she lived part-time in LA.
‘One night I said, “Mimi I don’t get it, I thought you worked for Tony? Don’t you live with Tony in Vegas, what are you doing in LA?” She was like “Don’t tell Tony I have this apartment.”
‘At the time I had no idea what their agreement was, it was none of my business, so I’m not going to ask. I just ignored it. But it left a terrible taste in my mouth.’
McNamara said when she moved in with Hsieh in April 2010 to help prepare his book tour, Pham, though absent, became jealous her role might be usurped.
Friends said Hsieh’s book tour later that year quickly became a disorganized and debauched junket
McNamara described Hsieh as the ‘most loving, genuine, generous person I have ever encountered’ but claimed it was his kind demeanor that allowed others to ‘control him’
‘One of the reasons he hired me was because he said Mimi was never around, she’s always away,’ McNamara said.
‘Mimi started to get jealous, you could tell. She was coming around more.
‘I would watch Mimi grow worse and worse and nastier and nastier, especially against me because I was the closest thing to Tony.
‘She would make up stories, tell Tony I wasn’t doing certain things, complete blatant lies.’
Henry added: ‘Mimi was slowly trying to get rid of Holly and I because we kind of knew too much, because we were honest and we asked questions.’
‘Tony was the most loving, genuine, generous person I have ever encountered,’ McNamara said.
‘He was too kind and simply wanted everyone to be happy. His kindness and trust were a double edged sword that enabled others to control him.’
Friends said Hsieh’s book tour later that year quickly became a disorganized and debauched junket.
Two members of his inner circle, who asked not to be named, said Hsieh befriended Ashton Kutcher and Ivanka Trump, had multiple girlfriends at the same time, and was taking ecstasy and having group sex in hotel rooms, creating a rock star lifestyle around the book launch.
Hsieh was staying at his girlfriend Rachael Brown’s home, and had gotten into an argument with her the night of the fire about the cleanliness of the house, according to a friend
This photo, provided by the New London, Connecticut Fire Department, shows fire damage inside a storage shed where Tony Hsieh died on November 18, 2020
Another close friend of Hsieh’s who spoke to DailyMail.com said despite his tragic demise he was a visionary.
‘They’ll look back on Tony in 20 years when they realize hierarchical business structures don’t work. He was right. The dude saw the future, there’s no doubt. It just would have been really nice for him to see it all unfold,’ the friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
The friend gave an example of Hsieh’s awkwardness but generous, loving personality.
Hsieh met an employee at a party who told him he was playing a country concert in downtown Vegas that evening. Hsieh barely said a word and left, leaving the staffer worried he’d offended his boss.
But the friend said when this small-time performer began playing to just a handful of people that night, ‘a double decker bus pulled up, Tony had brought 150 people to watch the whole concert.’
‘That’s how awkward he was, he wasn’t the best at social exchanges,’ the friend added.
‘But the truth is, living around Tony was amazing because what brought him joy was seeing other people happy.’
The friend said Hsieh ‘suffered a really massive psychotic break in early 2020’ after starting to use Ketamine heavily in late 2019.
‘Tony never came back. He just lost any roots that were in reality,’ they said.
The friend described a shocking incident on a 2020 bus trip to a Montana ranch arranged by caring friends who wanted to get Hsieh away from his drug-fueled spiral in Park City, Utah where he had retreated that year during the covid lockdown.
‘Tony got on the bus and was out of his mind, completely broken. He got into one of the passenger’s backpacks. He found and ate a crazy amount of [psilocybin] mushrooms and suffered a massive psychotic break.
‘He trashed his tour bus, hallucinated there was an active shooter incident. He was offering people half of his net worth to sign a suicide pact and burn us in the bus alive.’
The friend said Hsieh made farfetched and grand plans that would have been recognized as delusional if it weren’t for his status as a multi-millionaire genius.
‘He believed that he didn’t have to urinate or eat. His excuse for doing all the nitrous oxide in whippits was he was trying to train his body to live at the top of Everest or run a marathon without training. He believed could change his body to the shape of a gazelle.
‘He was obsessed with fire. Some people have asked me “do you think he committed suicide?”
‘In his mind it wouldn’t have been that. He was so broke from reality in his mind he would have been transitioning to this higher form of consciousness.
‘This is the saddest thing to me. Tony spent his life trying to build this amazing community of people, and when the time came to save his life nobody would work together.
‘If everybody was to work with his family, document what was going on, call the police. Why weren’t people doing that? His life was clearly on the line.’