Stefanik: FBI briefing on Schoharie limo probe sparks ‘concerns’

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FILE – U.S Representative Elise Stefanik in February 2022

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, was critical following the first closed door briefing by the FBI on its probe into the agency’s hand in investigations into the 2018 Schoharie limo crash that killed 20 people and ties to Shahed Hussain, the owner of the limo company and a former bureau informant.

“After today’s briefing, I have serious concerns about the FBI’s confidential human source program’s standard operating procedures in this case, and grieving families deserve to be updated by the FBI, so they can have full and much-needed transparency,” Stefanik said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday.

The FBI will provide multiple briefings to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on its recently completed probe that started a year ago under mounting pressure from Stefanik and other federal lawmakers.

Yet, none of the findings from the probe have been disclosed and it remains unclear what, if any, details will be released to the public.

“Today’s House Intelligence Committee briefing is a first step in the right direction, but, importantly, it is only the start of this critical process towards full transparency for Congress and, most importantly, for the families tragically impacted,” Stefanik said.

FBI Acting Assistant Director Christopher Dunham in a letter previously released by Stefanik stated briefings would be provided by the agency “with the understanding that the committee will not publicly disclose the non-public information contained therein.”

Palmer Brigham, a spokesperson for Stefanik, was unable to provide any insight into the congresswoman’s specific concerns following the initial briefing involving materials presented in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

“That’s why the congresswoman is pushing for a public transparent briefing and a release of the review to the families first and then the public,” Brigham said.

Renewing demands for information to be shared with families of the crash victims, Stefanik again noted the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence charged with overseeing the bureau will determine agency compliance with lawmakers’ request for information.

“I will continue to pursue this needed transparency and use my full oversight authority over the FBI to ensure the full transparency that Director Wray publicly promised me earlier this month,” Stefanik said.

The internal review centered on the agency’s involvement in the Schoharie limo investigation and the potential shielding of former informant Shahed Hussain, his family and Prestige Limousine from legal consequences related to the crash or otherwise.

Shahed Hussain was facing prison and deportation to Pakistan after pleading guilty to a federal fraud charge when he was offered a deal to become a paid FBI informant allowing him to remain in the United States. It was later alleged that cases he was involved with bordered on entrapment.

Prestige Limousine was owned by Shahed Hussain, but operated by his son, Nauman. One of the company’s limos was hired by 17 friends and family from Amsterdam to drive them to a birthday celebration in Cooperstown on Oct. 6, 2018.

All 17 passengers, the limo driver, and two bystanders in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store were killed at the intersection of Routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie when the vehicle suffered catastrophic brake failure.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board primarily blamed the crash on the alleged failure of Nauman Hussain and Prestige to maintain the brakes of the aging stretched 2001 Ford Excursion limo.

Shahed Hussain was in Pakistan at the time of the limo crash and has not returned to the United States. Only Nauman Hussain has been criminally charged in connection with the crash. He is scheduled to stand trial on 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide and 20 counts of second-degree manslaughter on May 1.

An appeal filed by Nauman Hussain’s lawyers is pending before the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court seeking to overturn Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch’s decision in August to toss out a previously negotiated plea agreement avoiding jail time.

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

By Ashley Onyon

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