Guyanese Ed Ahmad pleads guilty to mortgage fraud in New York court
Written by Demerara Waves
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 13:59
New York-based Realtor, Ed Ahmad on Wedneday pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud and could face up to 13 years imprisonment.
Ahmad, who was indicted on a US$50 million mortgage fraud, handed in his guilty plea at 12:08 (New York time), less than one month after he entered a plea bargain.
Ahmad, a former member of the Guyana Police Force, plead guilty to count one of his indictment when he appeared before Judge Dora Irazarry.
The New York court would soon issue a schedule leading up to the sentencing.
US Attorney Alexander A. Solomon indicated that the prosecution would be seeking 121 to 151 months jail terms- the equivalent to about 10-12 years 7 months., a few short of 13 years. The financial penalties totalling US$42 million include US$14 million in restitution, US$28 million in criminal fine and a mandatory criminal forfeiture of US$500,000.
Defense Attorney, Steven R. Kartagener indicated that he would contest the actual amount of the monetary loss Ahmad is responsible for, a move that could possibly result in a reduction in the monetary penalties. The two sides are expected to argue and make written submissions between now and the date of sentencing.
The criminal fine and restitution are based on the government’s estimate of loss in the amount of US$14 million. The criminal fine is twice the gross loss. Restitution is in addition to criminal fine. . Between now and sentencing the parties are expected to argue and make submissions on the actual amount of monetary loss
Ahmad, a close friend of former Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo, was visibly nervous and spoke with a broken voice.
He plead guilty to count one of bank and wire fraud and said his attorney had no viable defence. The offence included conspiracy to defraud various lending institutions by doing false appraisals of the values of properties.
The offences were committed between January 1995 and January 2009.
In 2011, Ahmad was reportedly removed from a Guyanese-bound airplane on the tarmac at JFK airport by the FBI and was indicted in connection with a massive $50 million mortgage fraud scheme.
Ahmad’s financial dealings have been also caught up in New York’s politics. Ahmad made a $40,000 payment to Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) in 2007 that the Congressman failed to disclose on his Financial Disclosure Reports for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Meeks subsequently claimed the $40,000 payment was a loan, but there were no note or payments until several years after the payment was made. Last year the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the matter. The OCE reported that Rep. Meeks “refused to cooperate with the OCE’s investigation.
Federal prosecutors and lawyers for Guyanese businessman Ed Ahmad, who has been indicted in a $50 million mortgage fraud scheme, have reached a plea arrangement.
According to a letter seen by this newspaper and which was filed today by Assistant United States Attorney Alexander A Solomon, Ahmad’s matter was yesterday adjourned to October 10 for a “guilty plea.”
As such he said that the prosecution and the defence are requesting from Judge Dora Irizarry that time be excluded from the speedy trial computation between September 21 and October 20 for “the purpose of permitting the parties to finalise their plea negotiations.”
Ahmad had made a US$40,000 payment to Rep Gregory Meeks (D-NY) in 2007 that the Congressman failed to disclose on his Financial Disclosure Reports for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Meeks subsequently claimed the $40,000 payment was a loan, but there were no note or payments until several years after the payment was made. Last year the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the matter. The OCE reported that Meeks “refused to cooperate with the OCE’s investigation,” NLPC noted.
Ahmad was detained last July on charges that he operated a US$50 million mortgage-fraud scheme in Queens, New York. He faces a maximum of 30 years in jail. He is currently on US$2.5 million bail.
Ahmad’s case has attracted great interest in Guyana because of his close ties to former president Bharrat Jagdeo. Ahmad had shipped a container of goods to Jagdeo at State House and many questions were asked about this.
Three alleged co-conspirators — Ahmad’s cricket friends and employees — were also indicted in an associated case last year, court records show.
The report said that Queens-based brokers Qayaam Farrouq, Mohamed Gurmohamed and Guyanese cricketer Steve Massiah were charged with defrauding banks and mortgage companies by falsifying mortgage-loan applications to make borrowers appear more creditworthy to financial institutions, court records show.
The matter against Massiah has since been dismissed without prejudice.
US mortgage scams just not cricket
Mathew Murphy January 14, 2012
Ahmad is free on $US2.5 million bail as he attempts to broker a plea agreement with the FBI.
ANYONE who has ever lived in a foreign city will know the certain vulnerability you feel when you arrive. Even if you are fortunate enough to speak the language, it is easy to feel unsure about yourself and your actions as you try to adjust to a different way of doing things. Navigating your way through everything from visiting a doctor to buying a house will be a little bit more challenging than it would be at home.
Perhaps it is because your columnist is a foreigner living abroad that the alleged actions of Edul Ahmad seem that much more repugnant. Or perhaps it is just as repugnant to anyone with a conscience.
Ahmad, an immigrant from Guyana on the northern coast of South America, is under FBI investigation for his part in a $US50 million mortgage scam.
It is a far-reaching case that has enveloped elected members of state and federal parliaments and even the US cricket team (yes, the US has a cricket team).
Mortgage scams are nothing new, but Ahmad’s victims are mostly from the Guyanese community in New York. Members of the community say that is what hurts the most. Ahmad was one of them, someone they thought they could trust. Potentially hundreds of people are facing financial ruin.
The New York Times has shown quality journalism is alive and well through its reporting of the Ahmad case since it came to light more than six months ago.
The paper said Ahmad personified the collective aspirations of Richmond Hill in Queens and its largely migrant community.
”Mr Ahmad drove a yellow Lamborghini, sponsored a cricket team and held white-glove parties at a lavish banquet hall that he owned,” according to the Times this week. ”At a prominent intersection … his smiling face looked down from a large billboard that promoted his real estate services. Many residents responded, taking out high-risk mortgages that they were told they could readily afford.”
The scam was relatively basic. Ahmad would allegedly lure buyers into subprime mortgages, inflating their value by using ”straw buyers”, or stand-in buyers, such as his wife, so the scam wasn’t directly linked to him.
He then pushed his clients to close the deal within a week using his lawyer, his appraiser and his mortgage officer. They would finance about 95 per cent of the home at about 12.5 per cent interest, which makes it easy to understand why so many are in trouble.
All the while Ahmad, said to be worth upwards of $US20 million, concentrated on keeping up appearances. He donated $US40,000 to Queens Democrat congressman Gregory Meeks, a donation that brought Meeks before the House ethics panel for a failure to disclose. Ahmad also worked as an lawyer for John Sampson, the Democratic leader of the New York Senate. Sampson was censured, or politically shamed by the House, for notarising a document for Ahmad without a licensee.
The US cricket team has also become embroiled in the scandal. It has lost its Guyanese-born captain, Steve Massiah, who was arrested in November for acting as one of Ahmad’s fake buyers.
Ahmad is free on $US2.5 million bail as he attempts to broker a plea agreement with the FBI to limit the 30 years he could face in prison for the 10 counts of bank fraud he is said to have committed.
It is little comfort to residents of Queens, which has been one of the hardest-hit areas in the US in terms of foreclosures.
The Times said the five worst-affected postcodes in Queens were within a 15-minute drive of Ahmad’s office.
It is hardly a coincidence that Ahmad controlled about 75 per cent of local real estate listings.
On being shown their mortgage documents by the FBI following Ahmad’s arrest, many of his clients were unable to recognise them and some were even unable to spell their names.
In speaking with Ahmad’s clients, the Times quoted some saying they had contemplated suicide while others were afraid of speaking publicly, fearing Ahmad’s powerful connections. Even after his political embarrassment, the office of John Sampson says the New York state senator and Ahmad ”remain friends”.
While Ahmad is undoubtedly cunning, he is not the only one to see an opportunity in the US mortgage market to get ahead at the expense of others.
In September, a Bolivian-born woman became the third member of her family in San Francisco to be charged with defrauding Latino immigrants through multimillion-dollar mortgage schemes.
In Los Angeles, the Thai community experienced the same scam by a loan officer who has since fled to Thailand.
Government and regulators have copped the brunt of the blame for presiding over a system that allowed opportunists like Ahmad and others to conduct the scams.
However, there is surely a special kind of hell for those who understand all too well the vulnerabilities of others and exploit them for their own gain.
The Ahmad case and others like it are important because they raise awareness within communities, whether they are migrant or not, to seek wide-ranging advice when it comes to purchasing large assets.
JANUARY 10, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
For years, a self-made real estate magnate named Edul Ahmad personified the collective dreams of
Richmond Hill, Queens, which is populated by many immigrants from Guyana, in South America. Mr. Ahmad drove a yellow Lamborghini, sponsored a cricket team and held white-glove parties at a lavish banquet hall that he owned.
At a prominent intersection near the border of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, his smiling face looked down from a large billboard that promoted his real estate services. Many residents responded, taking out high-risk mortgages that they were told they could readily afford.
In July, it all came crashing down. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Mr. Ahmad, charging him with masterminding a $50 million mortgage fraud that seemed to exemplify a nationwide phenomenon of celebrated immigrant brokers who were accused of preying on their own.
Now, scores, if not hundreds, of Guyanese immigrants are facing financial ruin because of loans said to have been arranged by Mr. Ahmad, and the repercussions from the case have extended from Queens to Washington to Guyana.
Mr. Ahmad is currently engaged in intensive plea-bargain negotiations with federal prosecutors, according to court documents, but it appears that the impact of the loans will endure for years. Richmond Hill has been hit harder by the foreclosure crisis than most other neighborhoods in the city, officials and analysts said.
Mr. Ahmad’s case has also ensnared two politicians whom he considered friends: United States Representative Gregory W. Meeks, a Queens Democrat; and John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic leader of the State Senate.
A House ethics panel is investigating Mr. Meeks for failing to disclose that he received $40,000 from Mr. Ahmad. Mr. Sampson worked as Mr. Ahmad’s lawyer and was disciplined by the New York secretary of state for notarizing a document for Mr. Ahmad without a license.
After Mr. Ahmad’s arrest, the ruling party in Guyana had to explain why his contact information appeared on a flier promoting a fund-raising dinner with the president at the time, Bharrat Jagdeo; the party said Mr. Ahmad was a friend of Mr. Jagdeo’s, but not a campaign donor.
Mr. Ahmad, 44, is charged with luring buyers into subprime mortgages, inflating the values of their properties and concealing his involvement by using straw buyers, like his wife and the Guyanese-born captain of the United States cricket team, Steve Massiah.
Mr. Ahmad pleaded not guilty and posted $2.5 million in bail in July. Reached by telephone recently, he would not comment.
Since 2009, more foreclosures have been filed in Queens than in any other borough, according to the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project. Five of the hardest hit ZIP codes in Queens are within a 15-minute drive of the office of Mr. Ahmad, who community leaders say once held about 75 percent of local real estate listings.
Paban Saha and Syed Husain, friends and former business partners, said they contacted him in 2006 after seeing his newspaper advertisements. They said he earned their confidence at their first meeting, when they watched him write a check to a charity.
“He set up an atmosphere where you forgot about everything,” Mr. Husain, 56, said.
Mr. Ahmad and one of his brokers offered Mr. Husain and Mr. Saha a three-family house for $880,000 but warned of another bid, Mr. Husain said. Mr. Ahmad demanded that they close within a week, insisting they use his lawyer, his appraiser and his mortgage officer, who pushed to finance 95 percent of their home at a 12.5 percent rate, Mr. Saha and Mr. Husain said.
Within two years, their finances were devastated, they said. The property was on the brink of foreclosure, the souvenir store that their families owned together went bankrupt, and they depleted savings they had accumulated since emigrating from Bangladesh in the 1990s.
“You can only imagine two households trying to keep one property afloat,” said Mr. Husain, who has filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Ahmad. “It sucked everything dry.”
Some Guyanese people, describing their foreclosures linked to Mr. Ahmad’s services, said they were so terrified by his powerful ties that they did not want their names publicized. One man said that at times he felt suicidal.
“I don’t even trust myself to make decisions anymore,” he said. “I’ve lost everything.”
Housing experts say these cases have cropped up in immigrant enclaves across the United States, often because immigrants can be too trusting of business leaders from their own communities who hold themselves up as examples of classic American success stories.
In September, a Bolivian-born woman became the third member of her family in San Francisco to be charged with defrauding Latino immigrants in a multimillion-dollar mortgage scheme.
Los Angeles’s Thai community was victimized, community leaders said, by a prominent loan officer who cheated so many immigrants that after he came under scrutiny, he fled to Thailand.
Mr. Ahmad worked as a police detective in Guyana before joining a Guyanese immigration wave to New York City in the early 1980s. Even today, after the arrest of Mr. Ahmad and at least 12 Guyanese real estate workers, most of whom were accused of running similar but smaller-scale schemes, there are more than 30 real estate businesses on the main thoroughfare, Liberty Avenue.
As Ahmad accumulated wealth — one former friend said he was worth at least $20 million in liquid assets — he poured money into charitable and other causes, including the mosque where he prays. He also raised money for politicians like Mr. Meeks and Mr. Sampson.
“Ed used to go around saying he’s befriended politicians, and if he’s ever caught, they’ll help him get off,” said Chuck Mohan, who is the president of a Guyanese civic group in Queens and a friend of Mr. Sampson’s.
In Queens, many people who once jockeyed for Mr. Ahmad’s attention, like radio and television talk show hosts, are keeping their distance. But his defenders questioned why the government was prosecuting immigrant brokers even as it bailed out banks.
“We are innocent victims of the economic frenzy and implosion that America is going through,” said Kawal Totaram, a real estate lawyer and friend of Mr. Ahmad’s.
Mr. Saha and Mr. Husain, who took the 12.5 percent loan arranged by Mr. Ahmad, said their lives remained in turmoil. They have been unable to start a new business because of a lack of capital, Mr. Husain said, and Mr. Husain’s three children are supporting him financially.
That, Mr. Husain said, is not how life should turn out.
“When you purchase a property, you think, ‘This is it!’ ” he said. Instead, he said, he felt overwhelmed by “depression and anger issues, and hopelessness.” (New York Times)
By STABROEK EDITOR | BREAKING NEWS | FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2011
US cricket captain Steve Massiah has had his passport confiscated in the US over mortgage charges in a case linked to that of Guyanese and New York businessman Edul Ahmad.
ESPN is reporting that Massiah’s passport has been confiscated and he is restricted to travelling within New York. Permission was granted to him to travel to Florida for a tournament.
Massiah, a Guyanese, is currently out on bail. The charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.
According to ESPN, USA Cricket Association (USACA) president Gladstone Dainty said that the board still had not had any discussions regarding Massiah’s legal situation. “Don’t call me about that please,” Dainty told ESPN. New York regional director Lester Hooper told ESPN he had spoken to Massiah on the phone a few days ago to offer support but said that even if he was permitted to travel, it is unlikely Massiah, 32, would participate for the New York Region in the USA Cricket Association Twenty20 Nationals scheduled from January 20 to 22 in Florida. ESPN said that that tournament will be used as a selection tool to pick USA’s squad for the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier from March 13 to 24 in the UAE.
“I’m pretty sure cricket is the last thing on his mind,” Hooper told ESPN. “I think he would at least want to try and get this whole legal situation behind him before he would even think about representing the region or USACA for that matter. That would definitely be something the [USACA] executive committee would have to really take into consideration, but like anything else I would like to believe that someone is innocent until proven guilty.
“He was very upbeat and he’s looking forward to his day in court,” Hooper related to ESPN about his conversation with Massiah. “I think for his work and his dedication to US cricket over the past years, I think we owe it to Steve to say a prayer for him and wait until the cards are laid out and we’re able to get a better understanding of exactly what happened and make a better judgment, a more educated judgment, in terms of what happened or what didn’t happen.”
According to the arrest warrant, a copy of which is with ESPNcricinfo, Massiah and two other men conspired “to execute a scheme and artifice to defraud a financial institution”, listed as Countrywide Home Loans, “and to obtain moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by and under the custody and control of such financial institution, by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.”
In the warrant, ESPN said that an FBI agent alleges that Massiah acted as a straw buyer for a co-conspirator, believed to be Ahmad.
USA cricket captain Steve Massiah has declined comment on his indictment in the US on mortgage fraud charges.
ESPN reporter Peter Della Penna said that Massiah, a Guyanese, declined comment when contacted by ESPN Cricinfo and USA Cricket Association officials were also mum.
ESPN said that Robert Nardoza, public affairs officer with the United States Attorney’s Office representing the Eastern District of New York, confirmed the charges to ESPNcricinfo in a US$50M mortgage related to Guyanese business Edul Ahmad who faces similar charges.
Massiah, 32, is one of three men accused of defrauding banks and mortgage companies by allegedly falsifying mortgage loan applications to make borrowers appear more creditworthy to financial institutions. He was arrested at least two weeks ago before being released and is alleged to be a co-conspirator of Ahmad, who was indicted by the US Attorney’s Office in August on 10 counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.
ESPN said that Ahmad is known in the US cricket community primarily for sponsoring the Ed Ahmad Caribbean Cup, which was New York’s premier cricket tournament from 2005 through 2008.
The report said that it is unclear if Massiah will be able to participate for the USA in the World Twenty20 Qualifier, in UAE next March, as multiple sources believe the charges may have led to him having his passport confiscated by federal authorities.
“As far as Mr. Massiah is concerned, he is innocent until proven otherwise and USACA is not going to make any comment because USACA does not have any facts in front of it,” Ahmed Jeddy, chairman of the USACA cricket committee, told ESPNcricinfo. USACA general manager Manaf Mohamed, who is also a member of the USACA cricket committee, was unsure whether Massiah would face any disciplinary action from USACA, the ESPN report said.
“I have to get directions from the board on that,” Mohamed said. “I wasn’t aware of anything. I saw him last week. He was here in Florida for a tournament.” Sources present at the $50,000 US Cricket Open tournament in Lauderhill, Florida, from December 1-4, said Massiah played in the play-off rounds but did not participate in the group matches for his team because he was late arriving to the event, ESPN said.
The report noted that Massiah and Ahmad have worked closely together in the past, but it is unclear what their current business relationship is. Massiah had been employed as a real estate agent under Ahmad at Century 21 Ahmad Realty in New York, for at least seven years, a source told ESPN. However it said that Massiah’s name, along with the two others who were arrested and charged as co-conspirators, are no longer listed as real estate agents on a web site for Ahmad Realty.
-Steve Massiah charged in related case
By STABROEK EDITOR | LOCAL | SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2011
Guyanese and Queens, New York businessman Ed Ahmad charged with operating a US$50M mortgage fraud scheme in New York is negotiating a plea deal according to a US newspaper.
Ahmad who came to notice in the US media after it was disclosed that he once gave New York Congressman Gregory Meeks US$40,000 is negotiating a plea deal with federal authorities in Brooklyn, the New York Post said, according to court records it obtained.
According to the Post, the “extensive plea negotiations” are scheduled to stretch into the end of February.
“That’s a lot of time to negotiate a plea,” said a New York criminal lawyer not connected with the case. “The feds must think there are bigger fish they can catch”, the Post reported.
Ahmad was detained last July on charges that he operated a US$50 million mortgage-fraud scheme in Queens. He faces a maximum of 30 years in jail. He is presently on US$2.5 million bail.
According to the Post, three alleged co-conspirators — Ahmad’s cricket friends and employees — were also indicted in an associated case last month, court records show.
The report said that Queens-based brokers Qayaam Farrouq, Mohamed Gurmohamed and Steve Massiah were charged with defrauding banks and mortgage companies by falsifying mortgage- loan applications to make borrowers appear more creditworthy to financial institutions, court records show.
The Post noted that Ahmad’s relationship with Meeks came under intense scrutiny last year after the Democratic congressman disclosed that he had received the US$40,000 payment from Ahmad in 2007. Meeks only disclosed the payment after Ahmad was questioned by the FBI last year. He claims he repaid the money following the questioning.
The House ethics committee is probing whether the payment was a gift and not a loan, as the congressman has maintained.
The Post said that Federal authorities also began investigating Meeks last year because of his ties to a Queens charity.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/queens/meeks_money_man_eyes_plea_deal_78rhT3okv9VV88N1FM7v8J#ixzz1gF5K8DSy