Co-Conspirator Faces 20 Years After Guilty Plea

BERLIN – A Salisbury man, rounded

up with dozens of other suspects in a federal sting operation carried out in Worcester County last September for providing

hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to undercover agents in exchange for
illegal green cards and tax abatements, pleaded guilty this week to
racketeering conspiracy charges and now faces 20 years in prison.

Saeed
Ahmed, 46, of Salisbury,
pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a racketeering conspiracy related to a scheme to
bribe U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) officials for illegal green cards for
as many as 10 illegal aliens, and Maryland State Comptroller’s Office officials
for illegal tax abatements. Last September, FBI and ICE agents raided two
businesses and a private residence in Snow Hill in connection with a years-long
undercover sting operation targeting as many as 45 suspects linked to Ocean City,
Snow Hill and other locations across the Lower Shore.

Raided
at the time were the Chicken Man store and the Your Stop convenience store in
Snow Hill, along with a private residence. The raids were carried out just as
U.S. District Court officials announced indictments for as many as 39
defendants, many of whom were operating out of locations in Ocean City
and Snow Hill along with other sites on the Lower Shore.

The
indictments arose from Operation Cash-Out, a months-long undercover sting
operation exposing extensive money-laundering and bribery schemes. According to
the indictments, an undercover operative working with the FBI and ICE told
Ahmed and his co-conspirators he had the capability to funnel bribes to U.S.
Immigration officials for illegal permanent residency, or “green,” cards.

One
of Ahmed’s co-conspirators, Mohammed Ijaz, 43, of Snow Hill, pleaded guilty
earlier this year to racketeering conspiracy charges and was sentenced to four
years in federal prison for his role in the complex scheme. Ijaz and his
brother, Mohammed Gujjar, owned to the two stores in Snow Hill raided last
September it appears they drew Ahmed into the complex bribery scheme. The two
brothers had made payments to the undercover operative for illegal green cards
and tax abatements for their businesses, and introduced Ahmed, who is the owner
of at least five other convenience stores in the area, to the undercover agent
so that he could get in on the scheme.

In
November 2006, Ahmed met with the undercover agent and told him he had the
authority to handle everything regarding the bribe transactions for five
businesses on the Lower Shore including Ocean City
and Snow Hill. At that meeting, Ahmed made arrangements to obtain illegal green
cards for two of his associates. Over the course of the next two weeks, Ahmed
made two payments of $300,000 each to the undercover agent with the
understanding he would make the sales and use taxes for the five businesses go
away.

That
was only the beginning of Ahmed’s participation in the extensive bribe scheme.
During another meeting in 2006, Ahmed told the undercover operative he needed
green cards for 10 other people. He told the agent he was adding $5,000 to the
$25,000 price tag for each card so that he could make a little money for
himself on the deal.

On
the night of his arrest last September, Ahmed obtained an ink pad and blank
immigration forms to be used for the future acquisition of illegal green cards.
According to court records, he paid $10,000 for the ink pad and blank forms and
agreed to keep the money flowing in exchange for more blank forms in the
future.

The bribes-for-green
cards scheme was only part of the vast racketeering conspiracy uncovered by the
sting operation. In January 2005, Ahmed, Ijaz and other co-conspirators
approached the undercover agent to make arrangements to get bribes to an
individual they believed worked for the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to abate
roughly $788,000 in sales and use taxes that had been assessed against the
Chicken Man store and another convenience store.

Over a period from
January 2005 to September 2007, Ijaz and his co-conspirators agreed to pay
$450,000 in bribes to who they believed was a corrupt Comptroller’s Office
official to make $1.8 million in Maryland
sales and use taxes levied against their various holdings go away.

Fake letters from the
Comptroller’s Office acknowledging the acceptance of the bribes and the
abatement of the back taxes were even provided to Ahmed, Ijaz and the other
suspects. Over the course of the scheme, the co-conspirators helped facilitate
a number of the bribes and met with the undercover agent at the stores in Snow
Hill. It’s important to note there never was any corrupt immigration and state
officials involved in the scheme and all of the bribes were handed over to
federal law enforcement officials.

After pleading guilty
this week in U.S. District Court, Ahmed now faces a maximum of 20 years in
prison. As part of the plea arrangement, Ahmed has also agreed to forfeit over
$500,000. His sentencing hearing is set for November 5.

 

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