News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 10, 2013: The icing on the cake of dismay for many Guyanese and Caribbean nationals in New York City, the U.S. and even Guyana this week, was the slapping of embezzlement and obstruction of justice charges on New York lawmaker, Guyanese-American State Senator, John Sampson. It marked number five in a list of notable Guyanese who have recently been arrested and charged with fraud.
Sampson, 47, who was a former head of the New York State Senate’s ethnic committee and represents the 19th Senate District in southeastern Brooklyn, which comprises Crown Heights, East Flatbush, as well as portions of Brownsville, Canarsie and Spring Creek Towers, areas that are largely home to many Caribbean immigrants, was charged in federal court in Brooklyn on May 5th with embezzlement and obstruction of justice.
Interestingly enough, his charges are apparently linked to another Guyanese, former realtor and Richmond Hill mogul, Edul Ahmad, who is set to be jailed on a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud and seemingly squealed on Sampson after copping to a plea deal.
Ahmad, 44, pleaded guilty last year to a mortgage fraud scheme in which he and others fraudulently obtained more than $50 million in loans. In so doing, he avoided a trial and a sentencing date has not been set.
In the Sampson indictment, Ahmad is referred to only as “The Associate.” But sources say it is Ahmad, the once flamboyant businessman, who flashed around in a yellow Lamborghini and handed off wads of cash to the campaigns of many local politicians and some in Guyana as well.
The U.S. federal indictment against the NY State Senator alleges that he asked “the associate” for $188,500. The money, at Sampson’s direction, allegedly was paid in the form of three bank checks payable to third parties.
Sampson characterized the “Associate Transaction to the Associate,” as a loan that he would repay but took this “loan” without written documentation or any rate of interest, the indictment further claims. He also never repaid “The Associate.” Further, Sampson concealed the “Associate Transaction” by lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms, falsely claiming that he had incurred no liabilities in excess of $5,000 or gifts or income in excess of $1,000, the indictment said.
Sampson is further accused of using a portion of the Associate Transaction funds to pay back some of the money he embezzled from two escrow accounts. However, Sampson never repaid any of the approximately $160,000 he stole from two other escrow accounts that are the subject of the embezzlement charges in the indictment.
Then in the summer of 2011, after the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York filed bank and wire fraud charges against the Associate in relation to a mortgage fraud scheme and he was arrested, Sampson is alleged to have engaged in a multifaceted scheme to obstruct justice and to prevent the Associate from cooperating with law enforcement authorities or disclosing Sampson’s criminal conduct. Evidence of Sampson’s obstructive conduct includes intercepted phone calls from Sampson’s cellular telephone, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said.
Sampson also allegedly tried to obtain confidential, non-public information regarding the Mortgage Fraud Case. Soon after the Associate’s arrest, Sampson informed the Associate that he knew an individual who, at that time, was an administrative employee in the USAO, the indictment said. Sampson told the Associate that he could persuade the Employee to give inside information that would assist the Associate’s defense in the Mortgage Fraud Case, according to the indictment.
As alleged in the indictment, Sampson then asked the Employee to determine whether the USAO was conducting a criminal investigation of Sampson and whether certain mortgage fraud defendants were cooperating with the government’s investigation. Sampson told the Associate that he was attempting to determine the identities of cooperating witnesses in the Mortgage Fraud Case, and that if they were able to identify those witnesses, Sampson could arrange to “take them out,” it is alleged.
According to the indictment, when the Associate asked Sampson about his efforts to use the Employee to obtain information about the Mortgage Fraud Case, Sampson was reluctant to discuss those illegal efforts over the telephone. For example, while meeting with the Associate in November 2011, Sampson stated, “I can’t talk on the phone . . . . From now on, our conversation is, ‘I don’t have no contacts, you don’t know nothing.’ When we talk, that’s how we talk,” the indictment states.
But the Guyanese alleged fraud trend does not stop there.
Late last year, the Guyana-born owner of the now defunct airline, EZJet, Sonny Ramdeo, was arrested and charged. He is now in jail, in Florida, awaiting an October trial for embezzling $20 million from his former employer in a payroll tax fraud scheme from as early as 2005 from Promise Healthcare Inc. and Success Healthcare Group, where he worked as the payroll supervisor.
Also last year, Queens district leader and two-time candidate for the City Council, Guyana-born attorney, Albert Baldeo, was arrested. He is now facing charges for campaign-finance improprieties.
And last month, another well known Guyana-born attorney, Michael Gangadeen, was charged by the Queens DA’s office. He is now facing charges of conspiring to commit mortgage fraud and larceny from Wells Fargo Bank by fraudulently obtaining mortgage funds in excess of $3.3 million
All in all an embarrassing trend that has many Guyanese New Yorkers shaking their heads but declining comment for fear of ruining associations and friendships or reprisals. Still others quoted the old all are “innocent until proven guilty” line to stay above the fray and not appear to take sides.
But for Guenet Gittens, a small business owner, there was ho holding back.
“As a Guyanese, and especially one in business, I’m disappointed,” Gittens told News Americas. “However, I remember being in real estate and realizing that some of our own people were the worst predators on our own – simply because we trusted in them. I now realize that instead of just not doing business with them I should have reported them.
“We should feel no loyalty to these people. They are dragging us down as a community. After a while with all of the drugs coming out of Guyana and all of the fraud happening… we’ll all be tarred by the same brush and we can’t afford that as we have too many hardworking, upstanding people contributing to this economy.”