Former Deputy Ohio Treasurer Amer Ahmad was indicted Thursday for taking bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative state work to a Canton-based investment broker who then made $3.2 million in commissions off the securities trades.
Ahmad, who has been a rising star within powerful Democratic circles, is accused of bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy while he served as second-in-command of the Ohio treasurer’s office.
Ahmad’s attorney, W. Kelly Johnson, said in a written statement that Ahmad will appear in U.S. District Court in Columbus on Monday to plead not guilty to all charges. “It is important to note that an indictment is only a charge and it is not proof of guilt. Mr. Ahmad is confident that he will successfully defend against these charges,” Johnson said.
Ahmad, who worked in the treasurer’s office from May 2008 to January 2011, served as chief financial officer under Democrat Richard Cordray and then both CFO and deputy treasurer under Democrat Kevin Boyce. After Boyce lost a statewide election to Republican Josh Mandel in 2010, Ahmad was appointed comptroller for the city of Chicago in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration – a job he quit just a few weeks ago.
According to the indictment, Ahmad, immigration attorney Mohammed Noure Alo and landscaping business owner Joseph Chiavaroli were co-conspirators in a scheme with Douglas E. Hampton of Hampton Capital Management in Canton. Hampton was set up by Ahmad to perform investment trades for the state treasurer’s office — work that brought him $3.2 million in commissions — and in exchange Hampton paid $523,000 to Ahmad, Alo and Chiavaroli, the indictment said.
Hampton disguised the kickback money as legal fees for Alo and a loan for Chiavaroli’s landscaping business, in which Ahmad held a 44 percent ownership stake, the indictment alleges.
Hampton pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy and Chiavaroli pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Ahmad faces eight counts in U.S. District Court in Columbus. Alo faces one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. The two are scheduled to be arraigned Monday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp.
While serving as deputy treasurer, Ahmad made sure Hampton was on a selective list of brokers authorized to do trades for the state and he authored an investment strategy that called for daily trades rather than a buy-and-hold approach, the indictment said. Hampton then received significantly more business from the state treasurer’s office than any other brokers, the indictment said. The scheme started in the Boyce administration, according to the indictment.
Federal court documents say Hampton, 39, and Ahmad, 38, attended high school together in Canton; Alo, 35, and Ahmad were close personal friends; and Chiavaroli, 33, and Ahmad co-owned Green Landscapes and Lawn Care.
Ahmad used the bribery money to pay off at least $42,000 in personal credit card debt, the indictment alleged.
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 vying to be custodian of international assets held by Ohio’s pension systems, workers’ compensation system and other public agencies.
The Boyce administration hired Alo’s wife, Walaa Waeda, as a $37,500-a-year 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 were not part of the criminal allegations unveiled Thursday.
Boyce was appointed state treasurer by former Gov. Ted Strickland in 2008 when Cordray became attorney general.
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. Watch video of one of those ads here.
Boyce is now a state representative and Cordray is director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, D.C. Neither could be reached for comment.
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 for William Blair & Co. L.L.C and Wasserstein Perella & Co., Inc. Ahmad holds a bachelor’s in political science from Columbia University and a master’s in business administration from Harvard University.
The Ahmad case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Central Ohio Public Corruption Task Force, which is the same group that investigated former Democratic lawmakers W. Carlton Weddington of Columbus and Clayton Luckie of Dayton.