The owner of the limousine company linked to the deadliest transportation accident in nine years is no stranger to the law. Shahed Hussain, who owns Prestige Limousine, served as an FBI informant in two terrorism cases after pleading guilty to a federal fraud charge in 2002. A state official confirmed Hussain’s bizarre history to The Albany Times Union.
Now, Hussain faces the prospect of an avalanche of lawsuits for the crash that killed 20 people, as well as possible criminal charges. On Monday, two days after the crash, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed that the driver of the limo did not have the proper license and that the vehicle had failed an inspection just last month.
“The owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road,” Cuomo said. Court records show that federal prosecutors credited Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant, with providing “substantial assistance” in 2006.
At the time, prosecutors said he had assisted in a fraud and drug case involving 12 individuals. He also testified in the terrorism sting of an Albany imam, Yassin Aref, and Bangladeshi pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain. The pair were convicted of laundering money for a fake terrorism plot set up by the feds and each sentenced to 15 years in prison. Hussain also served as an FBI rat in the controversial case of the Newburgh Four. In that case, Hussain posed as a wealthy radicalized Muslim who befriended four men eventually convicted of plotting to shoot down U.S. military planes with a Stinger missile and set off bombs at Jewish targets in Riverdale area of The Bronx. The government faced criticism for the case because Hussain was seen as organizing the scheme and urging on the participants. Nevertheless, the four men, James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen were convicted, thanks in part to Hussain’s testimony.
The work as an FBI informant paid well, according to The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. The book by journalist Trevor Aaronson reported that Hussain used the money he earned from the FBI to buy the Crest Inn Suites & Cottages in Gansevoort. The seedy inn also served as the business address for Hussain’s limo company. A longtime resident of the inn said that for at least two years Hussain kept limos on the property and seemed to care little about safety. “As long as they get money, they don’t care who’s getting in their vehicles,” the resident, Laken Prosser, 31, said.