- By Laura A. Bischoff Columbus Bureau
Five years ago, federal officials indicted Ohio’s deputy state treasurer Amer Ahmad in the biggest kickback scheme in the history of state government — a bizarre case that included Ahmad’s international flight from justice, a diary titled “Journey to Freedom: Who said escaping injustice would be easy?,” more than a year in a Pakistani jail and his current incarceration at a federal prison in San Diego.
Our Columbus Bureau’s coverage of the scandal led the state from start to finish.
Democrat Richard Cordray, who was then state treasurer, hired Ahmad in May 2008. Ahmad, who was a long-time friend of Cordray aide Chris Glaros, had experience in the financial markets and held Ivy League degrees from Columbia University and Harvard University.
When Cordray became attorney general to serve the remainder of Marc Dann’s term, then-Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Kevin Boyce as state treasurer. Boyce kept Ahmad, who then maneuvered to exert control over the office.
In May 2010, this newspaper published a story that raised questions about why Boston-based State Street Bank hired as its lobbyist M. Noure Alo, an immigration attorney and personal friend of Ahmad. The bank was competing for a large contract with Boyce’s office.
The FBI public corruption squad began looking at that relationship when authorities uncovered a kickback scheme involving Ahmad, Alo, Ahmad’s high school friend Doug Hampton, and Ahmad’s lawn service contractor Joseph Chiavaroli.
Ahmad authored a new investment policy for the office and steered state work to Hampton, who made $3.2 million in commissions off the work and kicked back $523,000 to Ahmad, using Alo and Chiavaroli as conduits. The three men pleaded guilty and served time in federal prison.
Ahmad, who became Chicago’s comptroller after Boyce lost his election bid in November 2010, pleaded guilty in December 2013 to federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery. While awaiting sentencing in Chicago, he bolted.
In April 2014, Ahmad flew to San Diego, took a taxi to the Tijuana border and walked into Mexico with a roller bag stuffed with cash. His personal diary of his flight cuts off on April 25, 2014 after a discussion of getting a fake passport to fly to Pakistan.
Ahmad, who was born in Canton, was stopped in Lahore for using bogus documents. While the U.S. government petitioned for his return, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson sentenced Ahmad in absentia to the maximum 15 years in prison.
“I can’t believe the utter gall of this man to operate with the impunity that he operated,” Watson said of Ahmad at sentencing. “I can’t believe that there weren’t others in the state treasurer’s office who would have had red flags going off all over the place that would have blown the whistle on this activity — that should have blown the whistle on this activity.”
Three years ago this month, Ahmad dropped his opposition to extradition to the U.S. FBI agents brought him back.
Now 43 and divorced, Ahmad, inmate number 71545-061, is scheduled for release May 22, 2027.