Silly me. All those years I worked as an investigative reporter for TV and radio have left me with a usual reaction to ask questions beyond the superficial.
To say nothing of the fact that I’m naturally curious – endlessly so. When I was a kid, some called me nosy – but I didn’t care – and as it turned out, it led to a fascinating career asking questions.
I have relatives in the Albany, New York area. When I heard about the horrific limousine accident near there, in Schoharie, that left 20 people dead, I did more than just the superficial reading of news articles in my local paper. I wanted to know what happened and why.
The immediate headlines were of the accident itself, the deadliest transportation accident in this country since a 2009 airline crash near Buffalo that killed 50. But there was more, and that intrigues me.
This was a limousine, carrying 17 passengers and the driver, which tore through a stop sign at a busy intersection, hit a parked Toyota Highlander and also hit and killed two pedestrians. Twenty dead, apparently instantly.
The immediate news coverage was of the accident itself, with images of the wrecked limo being towed from the location and the details about the passengers. It was a group of young friends and family, newly married couples and some singles, going to a birthday party. They hired the limo so no one would have to drive. But they all died.
The investigation began immediately. Why didn’t the vehicle stop? Why did it speed off the road, leaving no skid marks? Was anyone wearing seatbelts? The data recorders and the mechanical systems of the vehicle will also be examined. The driver’s record and qualifications are being checked and an autopsy done to see if drugs or alcohol were involved.
But there were immediate red flags. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the driver didn’t have the necessary commercial license, and the vehicle failed a recent state inspection of chassis suspension and brakes.
He also told the Associated Press that the limo, which was built by cutting apart a heavy-duty SUV and lengthening it, had been built without federal certification. The NTSB will determine if it met federal standards.
Cuomo added, “In my opinion, the owner of this company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road. Prestige has a lot of questions to answer.”
Indeed. Who owns the Prestige Limousine Company and how did they maintain their vehicles?
The family of the limo driver believes he was given an unsafe vehicle. His widow said her husband had expressed concerns about the vehicles.
Kim Lisinicchia told CBS that she heard her husband Scott tell the company several times he would not drive a certain vehicle, and that “You need to get me another car.” But then, she said, he trusted the company.
She added he was in excellent health, and was an excellent driver, having driven tractor-trailers for more than 20 years.
A relative of one of the passengers got a text from inside the limo just before the accident saying they had been in one vehicle which broke down and transferred to this one and it was in terrible condition. What was that all about? They also said they heard loud noises from the engine.
And then there’s the company owner.
The “operator” of the company is 28-year-old Nauman Hussain. His father, Shahed “Malik” Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant, is the owner of the company, but he’s been in Pakistan for health reasons.
Four days after the accident, the son was picked up in a traffic stop – his vehicle filled with packed luggage. He was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide for the limo wreck.
During his arraignment, a judge entered a not-guilty plea for him and he left after posting $150,000 bond with his lawyer, claiming a rush to judgment. The lawyer also claims the man left his home because he felt unsafe after receiving threats.
Uh oh, again.
State Police Superintendent George Beach said Nauman Hussein is solely responsible for the limo being on the road that night. If he’s found guilty, he could face up to four years in prison.
But his father is the tip of the iceberg, virtually ignored by our media.
Daddy owns the company. Who is he? He’s 62-year-old Shahed Hussein, whose latest address is in Gansevoort, New York, in a small hotel and motel units. The manager of the hotel says the owner is Mr. Malik who lives in Dubai.
While Shahed Hussein is in Pakistan for health reasons, his two sons, Shahyer and Nauman, lived in a mansion outside of Albany, where neighbors reported seeing stretch limos and young Russian girls coming and going until the two men abruptly moved out Sept. 30, a few days before the limo accident.
Daddy has an interesting backstory. It turns out he went underground for the FBI in several sting operations to expose terror plots. He recruited four men to infiltrate a mosque in Newburgh, New York, involving plots to shoot down planes and blow up synagogues in the Bronx. Those men were convicted. Hussain also helped convict the imam of an Albany mosque, involved in a scheme to sell a surface-to-air missile to terrorists in Pakistan.
He originally fled Pakistan where he had been accused of murder twice. To get out and avoid a third arrest, the father bribed police. He got into the U.S. in 1994 after going thru Russia, Mexico and finally into El Paso, Texas. He applied for political asylum and wound up working for the DMV as a translator. Then he was found to be in a scheme to take money from illegals to allow them to pass their drivers tests to get a license.
The FBI arrested him in 2002. He took a plea deal which involved working as an informant. Four years later, after filing for bankruptcy, he came into some mysterious money, bought a hotel, and went to work for the FBI for $96,000 to infiltrate mosques.
Over time, questions were raised about his honesty in his FBI reports, to say nothing of his financial dealings. He’s been involved in dozens of lawsuits in Albany County, including one by his attorney. He’s changed the names of his businesses and has several different addresses.
- Why don’t the media cover the FBI connection to this guy?
- What made them interested in hiring him?
- Is there any link to terrorism in this crash?
- What killed all those people? They all died at once? Of what?
- What are the autopsy results and when will they be released?
- Why was there was no explosion or any fire in the accident?
- What was that loud noise the passengers heard?
- Why, why, what what?
It won’t bring back the dead, but it might solve the mystery of this Pakistani family.
And speaking of that, whatever happened to the other brother, Shahyer?
I’m just curious.