COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former Ohio deputy treasurer who fled to Pakistan in the face of a 15-year prison sentence for a kickback scheme delivered a public apology before a federal judge on Friday and was sent to begin his time in U.S. prison.
Shackled and in prison khakis, Amer Ahmad appeared before Judge Michael Watson two days after he was extradited from Pakistan. "Mr. Ahmad, I didn't think I'd ever see you again," Watson said.
Watson had already announced Ahmad's sentence in December, a year after his guilty plea and at a time when it appeared unlikely he'd be returned. The last such extradition took almost 11 years.
Ahmad asked to serve his 15 years at the federal prison in Milan, Michigan, to be close to his children, who live in Chicago, along with his ex-wife. He also owes $3.2 million in restitution to the government, a debt he shares with his three co-conspirators in the kickback scheme at the state treasurer's office.
Ahmad, who appeared thin, told the judge he had worked "aggressively" to be returned to the United States during 16 months in what he described as "a Third World jail" in Pakistan.
"I know that there are many unanswered questions, and I look forward to answering as many as I can, so that the record can be set straight about how and why someone so blessed as me could have made mistake after mistake after mistake, as I did," Ahmad said.
He expressed "sincere remorse and contrition for this entire terrible chapter" in his life, and he apologized to family, friends, former bosses ex-state treasurer Kevin Boyce and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and to the people of Ohio.
Ahmad pleaded guilty in December 2013 in federal court to bribery and conspiracy charges — but he fled to avoid punishment. He was arrested in Pakistan in April 2014 holding a forged Mexican passport, a fraudulent Pakistani birth certificate, a false Pakistani visa and $175,000.
"It didn't have to be this way," Watson said, scolding Ahmad for squandering his marriage, career and Ivy League education.
"You've been educated in some of the finest higher education institutions in this country, you had by all accounts a pretty fabulous life going for you," the judge said.
As Ahmad teared up while apologizing for all the suffering he'd caused his parents, who were in the courtroom, Watson instructed Ahmad to turn to face them.
"Mom and Dad, thank you for not abandoning me as everyone else has," he said. "Please stick with me. I'll make you proud once again." His parents declined to comment after the hearing.
Prosecutors say that between 2009 and January 2011, Ahmad, his friend Mohammed Noure Alo, Canton-based financial adviser Douglas E. Hampton and Chicago mortgage broker Joseph Chiavaroli conspired to use Ahmad's position at the state treasurer's office to enrich themselves and their businesses by securing lucrative state business.
Ahmad and Chiavaroli hid such payments using the accounts of a landscaping business in which the two had ownership interests, prosecutors say.