Stefanik to probe FBI role in deadly upstate limo crash
Rep. Elise Stefanik said she will demand answers from the Feds about a limousine company — whose owner was an FBI informant — responsible for an upstate crash that killed 20.
In the Oct. 6, 2018 disaster in Schoharie, N.Y., near Albany, a limo, packed with young partygoers en route to a brewery for a surprise birthday, careened into a parked car before barreling into a ravine. The early afternoon accident wiped out several young couples and a family of four sisters.
It was the deadliest US transportation accident in a decade and led to a 2020 limo safety bill in Albany.
“One family, it wiped out an entire generation of their children. It’s incredibly, incredibly tragic,” said Stefanik, a Republican who represents the area. “Talking to these families. … They are not partisan at all. They just want answers.”
After the crash, it emerged the limo company was awash in violations. The doomed vehicle lacked both federal and state certifications. The car had been retrofitted with 12 feet of extra carriage added to the middle. It had failed numerous spot roadside inspections and has been ordered off the road by the Department of Transportation. Its brakes failed on the day it crashed. Limo driver Scott Lisinicchia, who was killed in the accident, had twice been busted on drug charges in the previous eight years.
It was later revealed that Shahed Hussain, 66, the owner of Prestige Limousine Chauffeur Service, was an FBI informant since 2002 — after he was nabbed for running a scam to help drivers cheat on DMV tests. In 2003 he helped the agency convict an Albany Imam in a sting operation to disrupt a scheme to sell a surface-to-air missile to terrorists in Pakistan. In 2009 he was an informant in a terrorist bomb plot targeting two synagogues in Riverdale and an Air National Guard base.
Shahed Hussain was abroad at the time of the crash and the company was in the care of his son Nauman Hussain. The younger Hussain, 33, later pled guilty to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide and was sentenced to five years probation and 1,000 hours of community service. The plea was later thrown out by Albany County Judge Peter Lynch, who demanded Nauman Hussain serve jail time. The case is ongoing.
Stefanik, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, will get her chance to grill FBI officials as a member of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government — a marquee post she was appointed to this week.
“The FBI makes it clear to informants that any time there’s any run-in with any type of law enforcement or a government agency, they have to be forthcoming to the FBI,” Stefanik said. “So the FBI, I believe, knew about all of these … run-ins with the law and they did nothing. So they have culpability in this deadly limousine crash.”
“They mishandled the source,” Stefanik said. “It led to the death of 20 upstate New Yorkers.”
A two-year probe by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that “Prestige Limousine and Chauffeur Service’s egregious disregard for safety” was the probable cause of the crash. It also cited the state Department of Transportation’s “ineffective oversight … despite its knowledge of the carrier’s multiple out-of-service violations and lack of operating authority, as well as the department’s inadequate repair verification process.”
Stefanik reiterated her vow to subpoena “all documents related to [the FBI’s] handling of that source who owned the limousine company” — a threat that now carries real teeth since Republicans took control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections. The congresswoman said she expected the FBI files on Hussain to be among the “first tranche” of subpoenas out the gate.
The congressional panel, under the leadership of Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), is planning a far-reaching look at alleged abuses within the Department of Justice and federal intelligence agencies.
Shahed Hussain’s current whereabouts are unknown, but he is believed to be hiding out in Pakistan.
In April 2022, Stefanik’s office revealed the FBI would be probing the issue internally.
“Consistent with longstanding policy and practice, any oversight requests must be weighed against the Department’s interests in protecting the integrity of its work,” Carlos Uriarte, an assistant attorney general for legislative affairs warned Rep. Jim Jordan in a letter last week. “Longstanding Department policy prevents us from confirming or denying the existence of pending investigations in response to congressional requests or providing non-public information about our investigations.”
Stefanik said the claim was bunk — noting how the House’s recently wrapped up January 6 Committee — which she called a “Pelosi witch-hunt sham” — had access to active investigations without a peep of complaint.
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