Former Deputy Ohio Treasurer Amer Ahmad pleaded not guilty on Monday in U.S. District Court to felony charges that he accepted bribes in exchange for setting up his high school classmate to make $3.2 million in securities trading commissions off the state.
Ahmad, who was second-in-command in the Ohio treasurer’s office from May 2008 to January 2011 under Democrats Richard Cordray and Kevin Boyce, is charged with bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy. If convicted on all counts, he could face a maximum of 20 to 60 years in federal prison.
Immigration attorney Mohammed Noure Alo, who was Ahmad’s personal friend and alleged co-conspirator, pleaded not guilty. If convicted on all the conspiracy and wire fraud counts, Alo faces 20 to 25 years in prison.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the federal government must prove its case in court.
Ahmad, 38, of Chicago, said very little in court other than answering questions by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Terence Kemp. Ahmad walked out of the courtroom with his wife and attorneys without making comment.
Alo, 35, of Columbus, also made no comment. Both were released on their own recognizance and are scheduled for trial Oct. 21.
After Boyce lost a statewide election to Republican Josh Mandel in 2010, Ahmad became comptroller for the city of Chicago for Mayor Rahm Emanuel – a job he quit in July. Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said the Ahmad indictment came as a surprise and the city will review the finance department activities over the past two years.
Federal investigators say Ahmad, Alo and landscaping business owner Joseph Chiavaroli conspired with Douglas E. Hampton of Hampton Capital Management in Canton. Ahmad authored a confidential investment strategy in December 2009 that called for the treasurer’s office to make five to 10 trades a day, using seven core trading partners, including Hampton Capital Management. Hampton then made 360 trades, earning $3.2 million in commissions.
Hampton disguised $523,000 in kickback money as legal fees for Alo and a loan for Chiavaroli’s landscaping business, Green Landscapes and Lawn Care, in which Ahmad held a 44 percent ownership stake, the indictment alleges. The scheme started in the Boyce administration, according to the indictment.
Last week, Hampton pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and Chiavaroli pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In 2010, our Columbus Bureau investigated links between Ahmad and Alo, who was hired as a lobbyist by Boston-based State Street Bank shortly before the bank won work from the state treasurer’s office. Alo, who had no other lobbying clients, was hired just two days before bid proposals were due for banks seeking to be custodian of the state’s international assets. The Boyce administration hired Alo’s wife as a secretary to Boyce and Ahmad. Alo attended law school with Ahmad’s wife. Alo and Ahmad were friends on social media and attended the same mosque.
The lobbying arrangement and award of a custodial contract to State Street Bank are not part of the criminal case now in federal court.
During a contentious and ugly treasurer’s race in 2010, Mandel exploited the Ahmad-Alo relationship in campaign commercials that falsely implied that Boyce is a black Muslim.
As deputy treasurer, Ahmad managed Ohio’s $11 billion treasury portfolio and $9 billion in state debt obligations and served as custodian for more than $150 billion public pension fund assets. He worked as an investment banker and holds a bachelor’s in political science from Columbia University and a master’s in business administration from Harvard University.