Feds zooming in on Caribbean networks
BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 1/31/2013, 1:01 p.m.
It is becoming quite clear that federal officials have begun to zoom in on the activities of wealthy Indo-Caribbean American businessmen with close links to Guyana's governing elite and are moving to scale down a plethora of illegal networks operating in Queens and other parts of New York.
In recent weeks, Ed Ahmad, the high profile real estate mogul from Guyana, pleaded guilty to attempting and conspiring to commit mortgage fraud on a massive scale before Judge Dora Irizarry. Ahmad and his attorneys were given months to negotiate a plea bargain deal that could now land the former Guyanese policeman in jail for up to 14 years and fines running into the millions for defrauding banks and property owners.
Guyanese back at home have been closely following the case, especially after federal officials prevented him from boarding a nonstop flight to Guyana last year as they closed in on a scheme that officials say involved around $50 million. They are also watching the legal developments because of Ahmad's very close and high profile links to President Bharrat Jagdeo, who only left office last November because he had served out his two mandatory terms.
Ahmad had admitted to sending at least 29 40-foot containers of construction-related and other types of materials to Jagdeo in Guyana. Federal officials say they are probing whether he was either hiding or disposing of assets from the U.S. in his native Guyana, aware that time was running out for him.
But even as Ahmad awaits a date for sentencing, Albert Baldeo, another high profile Indo Caribbean player, was forced to surrender to federal authorities in New York just last week to face mail fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges linked to campaign finance irregularities. Baldeo, who was a former magistrate in Guyana in the 1980s, was closely watched by Guyanese detectives for suspected irregular behavior during his time on the bench, both in the city and while on assignment as an interior magistrate, before he migrated to the U.S.
Baldeo had tried and failed two times to become a City Council member. He is accused of using phantom donors to obtain campaign contribution for his City Council campaign effort back in 2010 to win matching funds from the city. He had operated in the Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park area, which is dominated by Indo-Caribbeans from Guyana and neighboring Trinidad.
Furthermore, while the Caribbean community in New York follows the Ahmad and Baldeo sagas, they are now forced to turn their attention to a third high profile player with links to the Hindu-led Guyana Government.
Sonny Ramdeo stepped down last week as the CEO of upstart New York airline EZ Jet after being sued by an American medical firm for allegedly embezzling $5.4 million to start up the carrier, which flies to Guyana, Toronto and Trinidad.
Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals accused the former payroll manager in a suit filed in Florida of skimming money for personal gain and to fund operations of the airline, which had initially raised eyebrows when Ramdeo said he had mortgaged his home--worth less than half a million dollars--to start the airline that, up to last week, was encouraging passengers to buy a single round-trip ticket on one of its routes and ride free for the rest of the month.
The latest arrests and surrenders have left practically everyone browsing U.S. media for latest developments involving players from Guyana. Last year, Guyanese real estate attorney Cheddi Goberdhan was sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly conspiring to commit bank and wire fraud amounting to $23 million in home mortgage loans. Several other Guyanese were also charged in the scheme, while international drug dealers Roger Khan and Peter Morgan, both with close links to Guyanese government officials, are serving extended sentences in U.S. jails.