Authorities want to know why Shahed Hussain’s dangerously defective stretch limo was allowed on the road. A more pertinent question might be: Why was Shahed Hussain allowed to enter our country in the first place?
Hussain’s entire life is a fraud. From the day he first set foot in the United States, circa 1995, using a fake passport, his existence has been one of deceit piled upon deceit. Last Saturday, his limitless capacity to bend, break, and ignore every rule of American society finally, and predictably, ended in tragedy. Twenty people lost their lives in Upstate New York when a limousine Hussain owned, that had repeatedly failed inspection (for faulty brakes, suspension, and chassis, as recently as last month), crashed near Albany.
The tragedy behind this tragedy is that the government knew Hussain was a fraud. But instead of booting him out of the country, the FBI made him a government informant, who provided them with information about the activities of terrorists who also should never have been allowed into the country.
Hussain is a Pakistani national who was granted political asylum in the United States after having passed through Russia and Mexico along the way. He claimed that he was a member of an opposition political party and that he had been arrested, tortured and falsely charged with murder in Pakistan, before his father bribed local officials to gain his release.
New York authorities would like to question Hussain in connection with the deadly crash involving his ironically named Prestige Limousine service, but they can’t. Guess why? Because according to his lawyer, Hussain is in Pakistan, the country where he claims he was tortured and fled in fear for his life.
Before getting into the business of transporting people in rolling death traps, Hussain earned his living by criminally defrauding the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles by helping people (presumably illegal aliens) obtain driver’s licenses (including commercial licenses) using fake documents, and by providing his clients with answers to questions on the written test under the guise of acting as an interpreter.
His other ventures included a number of shady businesses, including ownership of a hotel which accepted reservations for rooms and cabins that didn’t exist. In 2003, Hussain filed for bankruptcy, running up $177,000 in debts he claimed he was unable to pay. A judge in a later case involving his activities as an FBI informant was so disturbed by this man that she wrote a letter to federal prosecutors in which she expressed her belief that Hussain likely skipped out on his debts and had “perpetrated a fraud,” while receiving “substantial sums of money” from a family trust in Pakistan.
But perhaps the most infuriating aspect of this whole saga that ended with the deaths of 20 innocent people is the lack of accountability on the part of everyone in federal and state government who made it possible. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is up for reelection next month, is demanding to know how Prestige Limo continued to operate despite its countless violations of state safety laws. This is the same Andrew Cuomo who, if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had attempted to go after Hussain for having committed immigration fraud, almost certainly would have refused to cooperate or even obstructed the efforts of an agency he has described as “a bunch of thugs.”
The federal government’s record isn’t any better. They knew, or should have known, that Hussain was a fraud and someone who should never have been granted the privilege of staying in this country. Instead, the FBI chose to protect him, attempting to harness his prodigious capacity for lies and deceit in the hope that he could help them uncover other dangerous people who were let into the country. This is not the first time the FBI’s protection of a shady asylum seeker has ended in tragedy, as investigative journalist Michelle McPhee documents in her book about the Boston Marathon bombing, Maximum Harm.
When events like the deadly limousine crash occur, there is the inevitable hand-wringing about how this should never have been allowed to happen – especially from the people who allowed it happen.