Amer Ahmad, an Ivy League-educated financial whiz, regrets not running away after his first interview with FBI agents in November 2012 — back when he still had his American passport and had yet to be indicted on federal corruption charges, according to a diary Pakistani officials confiscated from him and released to local media.
Ahmad, 39, is a federal fugitive who made a clandestine escape from Chicago to Mexico to Pakistan before being stopped by Pakistani Federal Investigations Agency in Lahore for traveling on fake documents.
Ahmad pleaded guilty in December to bribery and conspiracy charges for his role in a kickback scheme in the Ohio treasurer’s office. He had been free on a no-cash bond while he awaited sentencing. He was not required to wear an electronic bracelet or be on home arrest but he did surrender his U.S. passport when he was indicted last August.
Ahmad is scheduled to appear in Pakistani court early Friday on charges related to using the fake documents and attempting to smuggle more than $176,000 in cash into the country. The charges carry up to seven years in prison in Pakistan.
According to Ahmad’s diary, which has been posted on-line by Pakistani media, he prepared for his escape by withdrawing cash from his bank account, selling his car and catching a flight on April 22 from Chicago Midway to San Diego. From there, he took a taxi to the border and walked to Tijuana.
Titled “Journey to Freedom: Who said escaping injustice would be easy?,” Ahmad reported his every step and emotion along the way.
“It was dusk and I said my prayers in my head, but I was walking across the border with multitudes of Mexicans headed back with bags and diapers and groceries,” he wrote. “I had my backpack and roller. I fit right in.”
He hailed a taxi to the Tijuana airport to catch a red-eye flight to Mexico City. He worried about carrying so much cash through airport security. “They were curious about the Google Glass box, but they didn’t flinch at the money. I was on my way to Mexico City!”
Ahmad went to the Pakistan Embassy in Mexico City on Wednesday to try to get a passport but he lacked a valid birth certificate, he wrote. That night, he convinced his mother back in Ohio to wire $275 to a birth certificate expedition service in Pakistan under the guise that the money was for clothing, he wrote.
Ahmad was born in Akron in September 1974, according to a certified copy of his birth record from the Ohio Department of Health. His parents were both born in Pakistan, according to the certificate.
Pakistani investigators, headed by Federal Investigations Agency Deputy Director Mubashir Tirmizi, are now looking for the man who arranged the fake birth certificate for Ahmad.
When Ahmad returned to the Pakistani embassy in Mexico City on Thursday with the fake birth certificate, officials would not accept the documents, the diary said. Ahmad then hooked up with a taxi driver, ‘Eduardo,’ who said he could help him buy a passport. The diary entries end there.
Ahmad arrived in Pakistan via an Emirates Airlines flight from Dubai about 8 a.m. Monday, which is 11 p.m. Sunday in Ohio.
The FIA in Pakistan stopped him for traveling on fake documents, confiscated the cash, decoded his laptop and found the detailed account of his journey. The FIA, which is the Pakistani equivalent of the FBI, has refused to give American authorities access to Ahmad, insisting that they work through proper channels.
It is unclear whether Ahmad will be returned to U.S. authorities since the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Pakistan predates the creation of Pakistan.
Last week, his wife, Samar Kaukab Ahmad, petitioned a court in Cook County in Chicago for a protective order against Ahmad, saying he became irate when she refused to help him get a fake Pakistani birth certificate so he could get a bogus passport. She reported that she feared he would kidnap their three children, ages 2, 6 and 7, and take them to Pakistan.
Kaukab Ahmad said in the petition that her husband was under psychiatric treatment and had attempted suicide. In December, Ahmad told U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson that he was on medication and under the care of a mental health professional.
Ahmad had been required to check in weekly with court officials in the Chicago office, according to federal court documents.
Other public officials in high profile federal corruption cases have not been permitted the same amount of freedom as Ahmad received while awaiting sentencing. Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora was taken into federal custody as soon as he was convicted of public corruption charges and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was held in detention during his federal trial.
“I cannot comment on Mr. Ahmad in particular but in general, we don’t seek detention or electronic monitoring where people come in voluntarily, plead guilty, agree to forfeiture and agree to cooperate in an ongoing investigation,” said Fred Alverson, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Columbus.
Shahid Aslam, reporting from Lahore, contributed to this story.
Our Columbus Bureau has been following the Amer Ahmad case for over a year. Our team will continue to cover it as developments happen.
Here’s a look at some our our past coverage: