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.
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.