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October 28, 2006


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 understand.

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 years.

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 in Lahore.

"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 an informant.

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 immigrants obtain.

Lyons can be reached at 454-5547 or by e-mail at


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