FBI investigating Schoharie limo crash

Category: Auto Accidents

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SCHOHARIE, NY — Amid questions about the relationship between local agents and the longtime informant who owned the doomed limousine, the FBI has opened an internal investigation into the 2018 Schoharie limo crash that left 20 people dead, according to U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko’s office.

In a April 22 letter to Tonko’s office, Assistant Director Jill Tyson said the bureau’s Inspection Division opened the investigation after questions arose about whether the FBI was involved in the initial investigation of the Oct. 6, 2018 crash.

“In recent months, concerns have been raised about this motor vehicle accident and whether there was any FBI involvement in the investigation. As a result, the director ordered that the FBI further review the matter,” Tyson wrote.

Tyson’s letter to Tonko, an Amsterdam Democrat, did not provide details about the scope of the investigation. It was unclear if the internal review would could go beyond what, if any role, FBI agents played in the crash investigation.

Tonko said after the FBI dismissed his original request for an investigation, he continued to pressure the bureau to take further action.

“I look forward learning more from the FBI about the results of this investigation and will continue to do all I can to search for answers into this senseless tragedy,” he said in a statement.

Tyson’s letter appears to say the FBI investigation would be circumscribed to whether the FBI was involved in the post-crash investigations — which were done by the State Police and the Schoharie County district attorney, as well as a parallel probe conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board.

But Tonko spokeswoman Rachel Dejean said the congressman believes the FBI is looking into the agency’s involvement even before the crash when the limousine company’s owner, Shahed Hussain, was an undercover informant working for the FBI on anti-terrorism cases.

Family members of crash victims said they are encouraged by the FBI’s decision to investigate its potential role in the crash, the nation’s worst road transportation disaster in at least a decade. The limo, its brakes nonfunctional, crashed into a ditch after careening through the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store, killing all 17 passengers and the driver as well as two pedestrians.

Kevin Cushing, whose son Patrick died in the crash along with his girlfriend Amanda Halse, said Tonko reached out to the families early Monday morning to tell them the news. Cushing said the families were grateful to the congressman for persisting after being denied by the FBI at first. Cushing often speaks on behalf of many of the families.

“It’s heartening to believe that the FBI is taking the allegations of possible FBI culpability seriously regarding the limousine accident,” Cushing told the Times Union. “Transparency would be a welcome respite.”

The FBI originally declined to investigate the crash earlier this year after Tonko demanded that FBI Director Christopher Wray release any information the bureau may have had, and asked whether federal agents may have had protected Hussain in any way.

In March, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, grilled Wray about the Hussains at a congressional hearing.

“This FBI informant had multiple run-ins with the law and various state and federal agencies that miraculously were brushed away again and again and again,” Stefanik said to Wray. “I believe that this deadly limo tragedy … could have been avoided had we addressed the illegal acts of this FBI informant. And the FBI owes families answers.”

Hussain currently lives in Pakistan. His son, Nauman Hussain, operated the company in his absence and pleaded guilty to charges of criminally negligent homicide in September 2021.

Tonko wrote to the FBI in January, demanding to know of any involvement federal agents may have had in protecting Shahed Hussain.

Tonko asked the FBI to release any documents it has on Hussain and Prestige Limousine, along with any communications related to the crash among the bureau and the state Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies involved in investigating the tragedy — as well as with Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery, who took criticism for her handling of the case against Nauman Hussain.

The crash has been covered intensely by the Times Union, which has also written extensively about Shahed Hussain and his work for the FBI’s anti-terrorism units in New York and elsewhere.

A January article in New York magazine, which reported that Tonko declined to answer writer Ben Ryder Howe’s questions about the limo owner’s involvement with the FBI, ignited a firestorm of new interest in the case.

The FBI has repeatedly refused to comment on Hussain and his relationship with agents, even after investigative reporting by the Times Union revealed that Hussain had avoided responsibility for running the illegal limousine company for years out of a decrepit motel in Saratoga County that lacked state permits and was cited repeatedly for health and safety violations by local officials — all while failing to pay any of the school or property taxes on the motel for years.

The Hussains not only falsified their DMV registration documents for the Excursion, but they failed to obtain operating authority from the DOT to carry passengers in the massive limo, which weighed nearly seven tons. They also failed to get the limo inspected by the DOT as required every six months, and they failed to do drug testing on the drivers of the limo.

The Times Union’s reporting also found that Hussain would often use his status as an FBI informant to scare away code enforcement officers and business partners who claimed Hussain had cheated them.

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See the full, original post here: https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Tonko-FBI-investigating-Schoharie-limo-crash-17125097.php

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