NBC 10 I-Team: NY indictments hit close to home for Rhode Island officials
A public corruption case in New York is raising questions in Rhode Island.
In April, a law enforcement investigation made a wide sweep in New York that targeted a large engineering firm. When the dust settled, 13 people and eight companies were indicted on a variety of charges including: bribery and business fraud, which centered around allegedly illegal political campaign donations.
At the center: HAKS Engineers, its former CEO Husam Ahmad and former CFO Shahid Akhtar.
Prosecutors say HAKS and its employees made significant campaign donations, bribed a city official, and ultimately received millions of dollars in construction contracts.
Ahmad, 61, of Forest Hills New York, is accused of orchestrating a scheme to circumvent New York City campaign contribution limits by having his employees donate to campaigns and secretly reimburse them through year-end bonuses. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio got tens of thousands of dollars in campaign checks from HAKS’ employees and their families.
Both Ahmad and his brother Akhtar have pled not guilty and have since stepped down from the engineering company.
Rhode Island Connections
In recent years, HAKS executives and employees have also been kind to local politicians, notably to Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo, who is nearing the end of her first term.
Rhode Island Board of Elections campaign finance records show HAKS employees and their families have collectively donated $22,250 to Raimondo’s campaign coffers since late 2013. Indicted former CEO Ahmad and his wife Uzma contributed $12,750 alone to Raimondo, according to finance reporting records. His brother Akhtar, the indicted former chief financial officer of HAKS donated $4,250. People listing HAKS as their employer also donated $325 to Republican gubernatorial candidate, Cranston mayor Allan Fung within the last two years, $200 to House Speaker Nick Matiello in January of 2018, and $100 to the late Vincent “Buddy” Cianci’s mayoral comeback campaign in 2014, according to records.
New York-based HAKS also has a sizable footprint in Rhode Island. Beginning 2014, HAKS Engineers PC has steadily made millions of dollars in the Ocean State. For fiscal years 2015 through 2018, state records indicate the New York firm has earned $4.8 million from work with the Department of Transportation.
HAKS’ website touts the work the company has done "providing biennial inspection and evaluation of a select number of highway bridges throughout the state."
When reached for comment, Raimondo’s campaign press secretary Emily Samsel told us, “When the Governor learned Monday of these allegations, she directed that all contributions made by the two individuals under indictment in New York be immediately donated to charity. A check for $9,000, which is the sum that Mr. Ahmad and the other individual under indictment contributed, was put in the mail Tuesday morning to the Station Fire Memorial Foundation.”
Samsel said Governor Raimondo has met Ahmad, but does not recall meeting his brother. In addition, she “does not have a personal relationship with either of them.”