The owner of the limousine company behind Saturday’s horrific crash that killed 20 people is a former FBI informant who went undercover to record alleged terrorists in mosques after fleeing to the United States from Pakistan in the 1990s.
The government credited 62-year-old Shahed Hussain with rooting out radical Muslims at mosques in both Albany and Newburgh, New York, during his time working as a very well-paid FBI informant.
According to he New York Post, Hussain served as an informant during a 2009 terror plot that targeted two synagogues in Riverdale and an Air National Guard base.
Hussain also testified in Manhattan federal court at the 2010 trial of four men he recruited into an FBI sting operation in Newburgh. All four men – ringleader James Cromitie, Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen – were convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
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Hussain is listed as the owner of Prestige Limousine, (aka Hasy Limos and Saratoga Luxury Limousine in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration documents), which operated the 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limo that crashed on Saturday in Schoharie, N.Y., according to federal records, which show that four vehicles had been removed from circulation by the company due to inspection failures in the past 2 years.
Records list an address in Gansevoort, N.Y., that Hussain used after filing for bankruptcy in 2003 in Albany.
The limousine was carrying 18 people when it sped through a stop sign and crashed into a parked vehicle and two pedestrians at a county store. Everyone in the limo died as a result of the crash.
The limousine involved in the crash was said to have been in terrible shape and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that the limousine driver didn’t have appropriate licensing required to operate the vehicle. He went on to tell erporters that the limo involved in the crash failed an inspection that was conducted by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles last month.
“The owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road,” Cuomo said. “Prestige has a lot of questions to answer.”
Prestige Limousine was hit with a cease-and-desist order on Monday stopping the company from further operating while authorities continue their investigation into the crash, the governor said.
The driver of the limousine involved in the crash over the weekend has been identified in reports as 53-year-old upstate New Yorker, Scott Lisinicchia.
Hussain became an FBI informant after being convicted on federal fraud charges in Albany in 2002, according to the Albany Times Union. He had been taking payments from several immigrants, some of whom did not read English, in a scheme to cheat on state exams and obtain driver’s licenses.
As part of one of the FBI stings, Albany imam Yassn Aref and an acquaintance who owned a pizza shop were accused of laundering money for Hussain in connection with a fictitious terror plot, the paper reported.
Both were convicted in 2006 a sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
Hussain reemerged in 2009 as an FBI informant, when the four men from Newburgh were charged with conspiring to plant explosives outside two synagogues in the Bronx.
Hussain, while posing as a wealthy businessman, befriended one of the men at a Newburgh mosque and later met the other three men before implicating all four of the men in the terror plot.
The foiled terror plot was considered a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted” by then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the New York Post reported.
Hussain’s truthfulness became a big issue during the trial. In one instance, he testified he received substantial sums of money from a family trust in Pakistan during the pendency of the New York bankruptcy case.
After admitting under questioning that he had not disclosed the existence of the trust, nor the income he received to the Bankruptcy Court or his creditors, he was no longer considered trustworthy.
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