WASHINGTON — The FBI has completed its review of its involvement in the investigations into the 2018 Schoharie limo crash that killed 20 people and its relationship with Shahed Hussain, the owner of the limo company and a former bureau informant.
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, on Thursday released a letter from FBI Acting Assistant Director Christopher Dunham stating the probe that started a year earlier had concluded and that a briefing would be provided to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
During a hearing in front of the committee, Stefanik secured a commitment from FBI Director Christopher Wray to provide details on the probe this month.
“One year ago at this very same hearing, I asked you about the deadliest vehicle crash in decades in my district in upstate New York, the 2018 Schoharie limo crash, instantly killing 20 people. Those families have never been the same,” Stefanik said. “Since then, that was a year ago, the FBI has stonewalled and slow-walked our additional requests for updates on that review.”
Stefanik pressed the bureau chief further to share those details with families of the crash victims, but Wray said he would have to follow up with her on that request.
“Let me make sure I talk with our folks and circle back with you about what can be shared, if there are any limitations. Obviously, we want to make sure that the victims and their families are appropriately informed. But I don’t know yet what constraints there may be,” Wray said.
Findings from the probe have not been disclosed and it’s unclear what if any elements of the internal review will be made public.
“The FBI is providing this briefing and materials with the understanding that the committee will not publicly disclose the non-public information contained therein. The production of these materials does not waive any applicable privilege,” the letter from Dunham states.
However, Stefanik said the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence charged with overseeing the FBI will determine whether the bureau has complied with its request for information, including the level of transparency required.
“We are one step closer to answers for the families impacted, but there is more work ahead. I will continue to push for answers,” Stefanik said in a prepared statement on Friday. “That is why I demanded Director Wray extend this brief to include the immediate family members of the crash victims, as part of this full transparency.”
Facing mounting pressure from Stefanik and other federal lawmakers, the FBI last April launched a probe into the agency’s involvement in the Schoharie limo investigation and the potential shielding of former informant Hussain, his family and Prestige from legal consequences related to the crash or otherwise.
“These families have waited years for answers. They need justice. I hope that Director Wray follows through on his promise to provide a briefing on the FBI’s investigation at once and finally offer the loved ones of those lost some transparency and accountability — it’s the very least they deserve,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, in a prepared statement.
Shahed Hussain was facing a prison sentence 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.
Prestige was owned by Shahed Hussain, but operated by his son, Nauman. Shahed Hussain was in Pakistan at the time of the limo crash and has not returned to the United States.
A group of 17 friends and family mostly from Amsterdam hired Prestige to drive them to a birthday celebration in Cooperstown. 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 failed to stop and plowed into the parking lot before continuing on into an embankment. Police have attributed the Oct. 6, 2018 crash to 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. Also cited was ineffective oversight by the state Department of Transportation to keep the vehicle off the road after it had been ordered out of service for failed inspections.
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.