In totalitarian societies it is the snivelling, rat
faced informants and betrayers who serve the ruling regime and prosper.
Meanwhile, it is the innocent, the plain ordinary citizens who are
preyed upon and destroyed for saying one wrong word or displaying
one wrong thought. This is what we are heading for.
Informant for FBI is freed
Pakistani immigrant worked on terrorism sting case in Albany
By BRENDAN J. LYONS, Senior writer
First published: Saturday, October 28, 2006
ALBANY -- A Pakistani immigrant whose own crimes led him to serve
as an FBI informant in an Albany-based counterterrorism sting walked
out of federal court a free man Friday after a judge sentenced him
to time served in consideration for his years of undercover work.
Shahed "Malik" Hussain, 50, emerged as the federal government's
star witness last month at the trial of Yassin M. Aref and Mohammed
M. Hossain, who were convicted of charges that include money laundering
and conspiracy to support terrorism.
"Everything was fair and reasonable under the circumstances," said
Hussain's attorney, F. Stanton Ackerman, declining further comment.
Hussain, dressed in a suit, said nothing during the brief proceeding
before U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd. Hussain talked briefly
outside court with his longtime FBI handler, Special Agent Timothy
Coll, then quickly left the courthouse without commenting to reporters.
Hussain's own legal problems began about five years ago when he
was arrested in an FBI fraud investigation that was launched shortly
after the 9/11 attacks.
The investigation targeted a ring of corrupt translators, state
motor vehicle workers and nearly 100 immigrants who had illegally
obtained driver's licenses with help from Hussain. At the time, Hussain
owned and operated a Getty gas station on South Pearl Street, near
Albany's motor vehicle office. He also worked as a translator for
the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and had routinely accepted
bribes of several hundred dollars each to help immigrants, who in
some cases couldn't drive well, pass written exams they couldn't
Following his arrest in December 2001, and while facing the prospect
of a long prison term and eventual deportation to his native Pakistan,
Hussain agreed to become an informant for the FBI.
Hussain, who emigrated here in 1993 and still holds a green card,
has since been credited with helping the FBI arrest more than a dozen
people, including the people involved in the DMV scandal and a member
of an Afghani-based heroin trafficking ring.
At the time of his arrest, Hussain was about two weeks away from
being sworn in as a naturalized U.S. citizen. He ran gas stations,
a beverage center and a retail distribution business in Latham, and
shared a modest home in Loudonville with his wife and children.
Shortly after his Loudon Road home burned in 2003, Hussain declared
bankruptcy. He has left a wake of debt and disgruntled creditors,
including some who have described him as an unscrupulous businessman.
That summer, Hussain was still on the hook as an FBI informant when
Coll, a member of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Albany,
enlisted him to help infiltrate a Central Avenue mosque that had
drawn the attention of the FBI after 9/11.
The FBI's primary target was Aref, a Kurdish refugee who had been
the mosque's spiritual leader and whom the FBI believes was associated
with terrorist figures overseas. Aref has vehemently denied any connection
to terrorists and there was no evidence presented at his trial that
he'd made anti-American statements while heading the mosque for several
Hussain, who speaks five languages, testified last month that Coll
ordered him to befriend Hossain, a Bangladeshi immigrant and pizza
shop owner who was Aref's friend and a co-founder of the mosque.
Over the next year, Hossain wore a wire to dozens of meetings he
had with Aref and Hossain as they discussed Islamic ideology, terrorism
and a loan the informant had promised Hossain that turned out to
be the foundation of the money laundering charges.
Before the trial began, Hossain's attorney, Kevin A. Luibrand, filed
a motion asking the government to turn over "any evidence or
information that the government has that the informant has caused
another's death ... including acts alleged that he committed overseas."
Federal prosecutors did not turn over any records to defense attorneys
related to that request. A federal law enforcement officials close
to the case on Friday declined comment on allegations that Hussain
may have been tied to a homicide in Lahore, Pakistan.
Shamshad Ahmad, president of the Central Avenue mosque, Masjid Al-Salam,
where Aref and Hossain prayed, said rumors have swirled for several
years in the area's Pakistani community about the mysterious slaying
"The murdered person belongs to a powerful family there," Ahmad
said. "There are people from Pakistan in this region and they
know the murder situation over there ..., but they don't want to
talk and open up because they think this guy is the FBI's darling
and they might be in trouble if they open their mouths."
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak said Hussain may still face
immigration problems because of his felony conviction, but that U.S.
authorities would try to help him with that situation if needed.
Hussain pleaded guilty in April 2003 to a single felony count to
settle the charges pending against him. It was that fraud count on
which he was sentenced Friday, effectively terminating his debt as
Pericak contends Hussain only faced a maximum of six months in jail
under federal sentencing guidelines. However, attorneys in the case
said Hussain could have faced up to 15 years in prison and a fine
of up to $250,000 if he had been convicted on felony counts for each
of the estimated 80 fraudulent licenses that he has admitted helping
Lyons can be reached at 454-5547 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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