Today the House Ethics Committee announced that it was taking no action against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) who secretly took a $40,000 payment from an individual who subsequently pled guilty in a multi-million-dollar mortgage scam.
In 2007, Meeks received $40,000 from a “businessman,” Edul Ahmad. Under the Ethics in Government Act, Congressmen are required to disclose such financial transactions on their annual Financial Disclosure Reports. Meeks failed to disclose the transaction on his reports for 2007, 2008 and 2009.
In 2010, the New York Daily News reported, “Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks made no payments for three years on a secret $40,000 personal loan – and repaid the cash only when the FBI started asking questions, the Daily News has learned.”
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigated the matter and found that the claim by Meeks that the $40,000 was a loan was questionable since there was no indication of a set interest rate, a note or repayment terms that normally would accompany a loan. There was also no payment by Meeks to Ahmad of either principal or interest.
OCE concluded, “Therefore, this $40,000 transferred to Representative Meeks in 2007 appears to have been a gift.”
OCE reported that during its investigation Meeks refused to consent to an interview with OCE and “…he refused to provide requested documents concerning the $40,000 he received in 2007 from Mr. Ahmad.”
OCE reported that Mr. Ahmad refused to cooperate at all with the OCE investigation.
In 2011, OCE voted unanimously to refer the case to the House Ethics Committee.
In July 2011, the FBI arrested Edul Ahmad as he sought to leave the country. He was charged in connection with a $50 million mortgage scam. In October 2012, Ahmad pleaded guilty and according to federal sentencing guidelines, he could face ten to thirteen years in prison.
When the House Ethics Committee reported today that they would take no action against Congressman Meeks, they also stated that Ahmad through his attorney stated that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in refusing to cooperate with the Meeks investigation unless the Ethics Committee granted him immunity from criminal prosecution.
Even the accounts of the so-called loan raise questions with Meeks’ position that he lost the loan document and the Ahmad position, according to Ahmad’s lawyer, that “there was no loan document signed by Meeks and there was no fixed interest rate.”
The determination by the House Ethics Committee was that “the evidence did not establish that the Ahmad loan was an impermissible gift.”
This decision makes a mockery of any notion of common sense in the enforcement of Congressional ethics. A Congressman gets a secret payment of $40,000 by a man who subsequently pleads guilty in connection with a multi-million-dollar mortgage scam. The Congressman then fails to disclose the $40,000 payment on three successive Financial Disclosure reports, as required by federal law. And the Congressman makes no payments of any kind on the “loan” for three years. In the real world, the loan terms supposedly applicable in this case are laughable.
Add to all this, the fact that the Congressman refused to be interviewed by the Office of Congressional Ethics and the felon benefactor planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if questioned about his “loan” to the Congressman and you have a case that smells even by the “Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil” standards of the House Ethics Committee.