Limo Owner’s Past: F.B.I. Informant, Recruiter of Terrorists, Fraudsterhttps://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/li ... ailsignout
In 2001, a 45-year-old gas-station owner from Pakistan named Shahed Hussain walked into the Department of Motor Vehicles in Albany and obtained a driver’s license using fake documents for a would-be taxi driver who paid him $1,000.
Mr. Hussain was caught, faced federal charges and, to avoid deportation, began a secret career that led him to pose as a recruiter of terrorists, including involvement in cases that brought accusations that he had entrapped defendants.
He continued to run a series of businesses with his family, despite bankruptcy and legal issues — including, eventually, a limousine service that often ran afoul of state inspectors.
Now, Mr. Hussain’s improbable journey — from asylum-seeking immigrant to petty criminal to trusted ally of government prosecutors, has taken yet another turn. His complicated past is central to the investigation of the nation’s deadliest crash in years.
On Saturday, a stretch limo operated by Mr. Hussain’s company, Prestige Limousine, ran a stop sign on a rural highway in Schoharie, an hour west of Albany, plowed into another car and left 20 people dead.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the limo had failed inspections for problems with its brakes, suspension and chassis last month, and was being driven by a man lacking the proper license to operate a commercial vehicle. The car was also not certified to carry the 18 people riding in it when it crashed.
“There is a ton of information that’s got to be processed — forensic information, witness statements and other materials,” a law enforcement official said of the investigation into the crash.
State Police have made clear that they would like to interview Mr. Hussain, 62.
But his exact whereabouts was unknown on Tuesday. The law enforcement official said investigators believed he was in Pakistan and had been there for several months. But the manager at a motel that his family owns said he had been abroad for a year and was in Dubai.
[The victims were friends and relatives — including four sisters from one family and newlyweds — on their way to celebrate a 30th birthday.]
An examination of Mr. Hussain’s history, based on court records and interviews with those who have crossed his path, shows a man who has spent the better part of two decades crossing back and forth from one side of the law to the other.
His work helped convict two leaders of an Albany mosque in a 2004 plot to import a missile and assassinate a Pakistani diplomat, and four other men in a 2009 conspiracy to bomb synagogues in the Bronx. In both cases, the attacks never took place because they were part of a sting operation.
In one of those terrorism trials, Mr. Hussain described five years of solid work for the F.B.I.
“We did about 21 cases, including money laundering, human trafficking, drug trafficking, credit card fraud, stolen identity and D.M.V. officials — corrupt D.M.V. officials,” he said.
But a federal defender who represented one of the men whom Mr. Hussain helped lure into the terror plot in 2009 offered a darker assessment of Mr. Hussain’s character.
“If Wikipedia did a definition of fraudster, they could put his picture in,” the lawyer, Susanne Brody, said on Tuesday. “He lies about everything.”
Still, federal prosecutors during the two trials portrayed him as a trustworthy witness. In the bomb plot case, for example, the prosecutors said his testimony was corroborated by other evidence.
“Despite trying to turn over every single rock in this man’s life in a desperate attempt to find a worm, they were never able to call into question his basic account of what happened in this case,” a prosecutor, Jason P.W. Halperin, told the jury.
Mr. Hussain arrived in the United States in about 1995 with considerable legal and extralegal adventures already behind him.
He testified in the 2009 terrorism trial that in Pakistan, he had been active in an opposition political party, arrested and tortured and charged with murder in the 1990s, freed after his father bribed the police, had fled to Moscow, Mexico and finally Texas on a fake passport and was granted asylum in Albany.
While working in and later owning gas stations, he developed a sideline helping people get driver’s licenses. He worked for a company that provided interpreters for people taking driver’s license tests at the D.M.V. and would give his customers the correct answers while ostensibly translating the questions to them.
In 2003, he used his illegal expertise in driver’s licenses in his first terrorism sting.
Under the alias “Malik,” he met with the Bangladeshi owner of an Albany pizzeria who said his brother needed a learner’s permit. For $100, no problem, Mr. Hussain said.
The men discussed religion, politics and jihad. Over time, Mr. Hussain, acting on orders from the F.B.I., convinced the pizzeria owner and another man that he was helping plan an attack on a Pakistani diplomat in New York and would be importing a surface-to-air missile from China for the purpose.
They joined the plot, were arrested and, ultimately, convicted, despite their lawyers’ complaints of entrapment.