Federal authorities brought fugitive Amer Ahmad, the mastermind behind a bribery and kickback scheme in the Ohio Treasurer’s office, back to the United States on Wednesday through a series of flights between Pakistan and Columbus.
Ahmad, 40, is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson at 10 a.m. Friday.
“Amer Ahmad abused the public’s trust and ran halfway across the globe to hide,” said FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Angela Byers in a written statement. “Tenacious FBI special agents and investigators continued to pursue Ahmad until he could be returned to face justice. Now he will have plenty of time to reflect on his corrupt actions while serving out his lengthy prison sentence.”
“Today’s extradition demonstrates the never-ceasing efforts by investigators at home and abroad to bring to justice those who abuse positions of power to defraud,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark D’Alessandro in a written release.
On Dec. 23, 2013, Ahmad pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery. He was free while awaiting sentencing and living in Chicago with his wife and their three young children.
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Walked across U.S. border with $175,000 in cash
He flew to San Diego, took a taxi to the Mexico border, walked into Tijuana with more than $175,000 in cash, hopped a flight to Mexico City and then arranged for a fake passport, according to a diary Ahmad kept during his escape.
When he landed in Lahore, Pakistani officials detained him for traveling on bogus documents. Pakistani authorities released to the media Ahmad’s diary found on his laptop, titled “Journey to Freedom: Who said escaping injustice would be easy?”
It is unclear what prompted Pakistani officials to release Ahmad to U.S. authorities now after detaining him for more than 16 months. Last year, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys had asked Pakistan to return Ahmad but they noted that the last extradition to the U.S. occurred in June 2006 — 11 years after that request was made.
So, on Dec. 1, 2014, Watson sentenced Ahmad in absentia to 15 years in prison — the maximum — for his role as architect of the biggest public corruption scheme in Ohio treasury history. At sentencing, Watson called Ahmad narcissistic, disturbed and phenomenally arrogant.
“I can’t believe the utter gall of this man to operate with the impunity that he operated,” Watson said of Ahmad at sentencing. “I can’t believe that there weren’t others in the state treasurer’s office who would have had red flags going off all over the place that would have blown the whistle on this activity — that should have blown the whistle on this activity.”
Federal prosecutor Eric Gibson said during sentencing “because Mr. (Kevin) Boyce was not the most sophisticated treasurer … he relied heavily on Mr. Ahmad, ultimately resulting in Mr. Ahmad effectively running the treasury, period. And this man sold his office over and over and over again.”
Ahmad, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was born in Akron and grew up in the Canton area. He holds degrees from Columbia University and Harvard University and was widely seen as a rising star in Democratic power circles.
Former Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer Richard Cordray, who now serves in the Obama administration, hired Ahmad into the treasurer’s office in May 2008. When Democrat Kevin Boyce took over, Boyce promoted Ahmad to deputy treasurer. Once Boyce lost election to Republican Josh Mandel in November 2010, Ahmad moved to be comptroller of the city of Chicago for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff.
But at the end of the Boyce administration, FBI agents opened an investigation and subpoenaed documents from the Ohio treasurer’s office. Initially they were looking at ties between Ahmad and immigration attorney M. Noure Alo, who was hired as a lobbyist for Boston-based State Street Bank. Alo had no other lobbying experience or clients and State Street Bank was up for a big contract with the treasurer’s office. The bank won the contract, overseeing about $20 billion in pension assets invested around the globe.
While looking at that relationship between Ahmad and Alo, federal authorities uncovered a kickback scheme. Ahmad authored a new investment policy for the office and steered work to a high school friend, Doug Hampton of Hampton Capital Management. Hampton made $3.2 million in commissions off the work and kicked back $523,000 to Ahmad, Alo and a third man, Joseph Chiavaroli.
Hampton is serving 45 months, Alo 48 months and Chiavaroli 18 months in federal prison.