BALTIMORE, MD - Saeed Ahmed, 46, of Salisbury, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to a racketeering conspiracy related to a scheme to bribe officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to illegally obtain green cards and the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to receive abatement of state taxes, announced James A. Dinkins, Special Agent in Charge for U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
This was an ICE lead investigation with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Maryland Comptroller’s Office.
“Working as a team with our law enforcement partners lead to this significant plea” stated Special Agent in Charge Dinkins. “ICE will continue to focus our investigative resources on individuals and organizations who seek to exploit our immigration system.”
“Protecting the integrity of our government requires us to investigate and prosecute people who try to bribe government officials,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to the plea agreement, Mohammad Gujjar and his brother, Mohammad Ijaz, owned and operated convenience store/gas stations in Snow Hill, Maryland. In the fall of 2006, both Gujjar and Ijaz sought to have a cooperating witness, who held himself out to be involved in large-scale international drug trafficking and international smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes, assist with payment of bribes to abate state sales and use taxes assessed against local businesses associated with Ahmed. Gujjar and Ijaz has previously paid monies to the cooperating witness as bribes to abate sales and use taxes against their own businesses, and to fraudulently obtain green cards for their associates. The cooperating witness, acting at the direction of federal law enforcement, represented that he would facilitate payment of the bribes to his alleged contacts in the Maryland State Comptroller’s Office and USCIS.
On November 2, 2006, Ijaz introduced the cooperating witness to Ahmed. Both Ahmed and Ijaz told the cooperating witness that Ahmed had control of the five businesses whose names had been previously provided to the cooperating witness. According to Maryland state business and incorporation records, Ahmed is a listed officer for one of the businesses, Ashraf, Inc., all of which are convenience stores and gas stations. During the meeting, the cooperating witness told both men that the service for the bribes would cost $300,000. Ijaz tried to negotiate for a lower price. Ahmed told the cooperating witness that he had the authority to handle everything regarding the bribe transactions for the five businesses. At the end of the meeting, Ahmed asked the cooperating witness if he could obtain two green cards for two of his associates. Over the course of the next few weeks, Ahmed gave the cooperating witness two bribe payments totaling $300,000 with the understanding that the monies would be provided to a Maryland state tax official to abate the sales and use taxes for the five businesses. The cooperating witness subsequently provided false letters from the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to Ahmed to confirm abatement of the taxes in response to the bribe.
During one of his meeting with the cooperating witness in November 2006, Ahmed told the cooperating witness that he had 10 people who needed green cards. He stated that he would add $5,000 to each $25,000 bribe for these individuals in order to keep some money for himself. Between August 30 and September 19, 2007, Ahmed brought six people to the cooperating witness to obtain fraudulent green cards for them through the payment of bribes for $25,000 per individual. Ahmed assisted in the payment of $130,000 of the total monies due for the bribes, and promised the cooperating witness that he would pay the remaining balance of $20,000. On the night of his arrest on September 19, 2007, Ahmed obtained an ink pad from the cooperating witness, along with some blank Immigration forms, and promised to pay $10,000 for those items and for additional blank Immigration forms to be used for future acquisition of fraudulent green cards. Ahmed also sought to negotiate with the cooperating witness to increase the amount of the bribes for some of the individuals who accompanied him that night so that Ahmed could make an additional profit off the bribes for himself.
The payments for the bribes were all made to the cooperating witness, who provided the money to federal law enforcement agents. There in fact were no corrupt USCIS and state officials involved in the scheme.
As part of his plea agreement, Ahmed has agreed to forfeit $500,465.
Ahmed faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis scheduled sentencing for November 5, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.
Mohammad Ijaz, 43, of Snow Hill, pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced on June 25, 2008, to four years in prison. To date, 22 defendants have pleaded guilty to their participation in this scheme.