Ex-Chicago comptroller Amer Ahmad imprisoned in kickback scheme wants COVID freedom

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Ex-Chicago comptroller imprisoned in kickback scheme wants COVID freedom
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Chicago's former top finance officer wants home confinement for rest of sentence.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Harvard-educated finance whiz, who once oversaw the city's books for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, says he is high-risk for a "catastrophic outcome" if he is remains locked up in a COVID-ravaged federal prison, the I-Team has learned.

Amer Ahmad, who was Chicago's comptroller for more than two years until resigning in 2013, is doing 15 years for his role in a kickback scheme while working at the Ohio state treasurer's office. This was prior to his appointment by Mayor Emanuel.

Ahmad is incarcerated at Terminal Island, a federal prison in Southern California where hundreds of inmates have been infected by coronavirus and ten have died. Authorities have taken extraordinary measures after 70 percent of the prison's population came down with the virus, moving them into isolated housing.

In a hand-written plea to the warden for "compassionate release" dated April 25, Ahmad states that "the entire Bureau of Prisons is on lockdown, people are dying in the prisons, and hundreds-if not thousands-of inmates are in grave danger" because of the inability to social distance while behind bars.

Ahmad, 45, proposes he spend the remaining 6 1/2 years of his sentence on home confinement with his parents, who reside in North Canton, Ohio, and they would handle his living expenses until he finds a job.

The Columbia University graduate and Harvard MBA also says he now has a law degree "which I completed while incarcerated at Terminal Island, from the University of London."

Newly filed court records also reveal that Ahmad completed more than 200 prison classes during his time so far. Prison transcripts list his curriculum, from history, science, religion and finance courses to classes on the Downton Abbey TV series, Hogwart's School of Magic, Why Ships Sink and a course on Ethics and Accountability.

In 2013 Ahmad pleaded guilty to bribery, money laundering and conspiracy, admitting that he steered more than $3 million dollars in state investment business to a high school classmate, who then kicked back $500,000 to Ahmad.

While awaiting sentencing he escaped the U.S. to Pakistan using falsified documents. He avoided punishment for nine months but was eventually caught and sent back to Chicago, where his wife and children have since disowned him.

As the I-Team first reported almost three years ago, federal authorities said they were "unable to locate the proceeds Amer Ahmad acquired as a result of his illegal activity." He still owes the government more than $3 million in restitution.

When Ahmad was implicated in the Ohio scheme, Mayor Emanuel ordered a full review of his conduct while Chicago comptroller. No financial misconduct here was found but the two investigations cost Chicago taxpayers more than $800,000.

After Ahmad submitted his release request to the prison warden three months ago, he says he never received a reply. His attorneys filed a court motion in Ohio last week asking for release. The government confirmed to the I-Team Ahmad has asked for compassionate release and say the U.S. Attorney's Office is evaluating Ahmad's claims and will respond soon. No hearing date has been set.