CHICAGO — A federal grand jury Thursday indicted former Ohio deputy treasurer Amer Ahmad — who left his latest position as Chicago comptroller just last month — on corruption charges that accuse him of orchestrating a kickback scheme involving state of Ohio investment business.
The indictment alleges that Ahmad used his influence as deputy state treasurer to steer investment business to a firm he had close personal ties with and which then funneled cash back to Ahmad and several alleged co-conspirators through "loans" and "fees."
"The purpose of the conspiracy" was for the defendants to "personally enrich themselves, their friends and associates, and their businesses, by using Ahmad's position in the TOS [Ohio Treasurer's Office] to secure lucrative state business….in exchange for payments."
The Ohio treasurer's office manages the state's cash and oversees multi-billion-dollar investment portfolios. Ahmad was named chief financial officer of the office in 2008 by then Treasurer Kevin Boyce and in 2009 he also became deputy treasurer. The alleged schemes occurred between early 2009 and early 2011.
Ahmad, a native of Akron, denied any wrongdoing and will appear in federal court Monday to plead not guilty, his lawyers said in statement. Ahmad is being represented by Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP.
"Mr. Ahmad is an accomplished investment specialist who spent his career most recently as a public servant securing the investments of the State of Ohio and the City of Chicago where he served as comptroller," the statement read. "The indictment does not allege that there was any financial loss to the state treasury. Under Mr. Ahmad's stewardship, Ohio's investments were protected and stabilized."
Ahmad was indicted along with Mohammed Noure Alo and Joseph M. Chiavaroli, according to a copy of the 20-page indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division. Ahmad is charged with eight criminal counts: conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, money laundering conspiracy, and false statements. The other defendants were indicted on various counts.
Ahmad left the treasurer's office in late 2010 after Boyce, a Democrat, lost his re-election bid to Republican Josh Mandel.
Ahmad then joined Cleveland-based KeyCorp as a senior vice president and head of its public sector group, which provides investment and banking services for governments, nonprofit and higher education clients. In April 2011, then newly elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tapped Ahmad to serve as city comptroller, one of three key city finance positions along with chief financial officer and budget director.
While Ahmad worked in the Ohio treasurer's office, he also served as president of Five Rivers Partners LLC, which he owned with his spouse. In late 2009, Five Rivers invested in an Ohio-based landscaping business known as Going Green Landscapes and Lawn Care.
One of Ahmad's co-defendants, Chiavaroli, was founder and part owner of Going Green Landscapes. The third defendant, Alo, operated a law firm that handled the partial ownership transfer of Going Green to Five Rivers. Douglas E. Hampton, who is named in the indictment, but not charged, owned Hampton Capital Financial Management and was a personal financial advisor to Ahmad.
The indictment alleges that Ahmad used his position to ensure that Hampton's investment firm would be included on the list of firms approved to conduct state investment business. Ahmad led the selection committee.
He then steered business to Hampton's investment firm which "received significantly more business" than any other brokers approved to provide brokerage services, the indictment reads. The firm collected $3.2 million in commissions.
Hampton allegedly funneled cash back to Ahmad and the other defendants through legal fees and loans totaling more than $500,000 through their business interests.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of between five and 10 years, and up to 20 years on the honest service wire fraud count. Chiavaroli pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to commit money laundering and on Wednesday Hampton pleaded guilty to conspiracy, according to local published reports.
"The alleged conduct of Amer Ahmad from the previous treasurer's administration is deeply concerning. On behalf of Ohio taxpayers, we hope that he and the others involved are brought to justice," Treasurer Mandel's communications director Seth Unger said in statement.
Emanuel's administration said the indictment would prompt of review of Ahmad's activities there.
"We had no knowledge of the investigation until today's news reports, and it appears to be focused on alleged activities when Ahmad served the State of Ohio," said a statement from the city. "We have no reason to believe and have no knowledge of any such wrongdoing during his tenure in Chicago. But we will take any action that is needed — including conducting a review of Finance Department activities over the last two years — to ensure that Chicago taxpayers are protected."
Chicago announced in late July that Ahmad was stepping down from his position to return to the private sector.
"Amer has played an integral role in my efforts to reform government, strengthen the city's finances, and professionalize our approach to fiscal management," Emanuel said in a statement then, which reported that Ahmad would be returning to the private sector but did not disclose where he might be headed.
Ahmad also previously worked in investment banking at Wasserstein Perella and William Blair & Co. Emanuel also did a stint in investment banking at Wasserstein.