The owner of a company whose limousine was involved in a crash that killed 20 people in New York State this past weekend is a Pakistani immigrant who has been a government informant in the investigation of suspected terrorist threats.
Police said on October 8 that the company owner, Shahed Hussain, is currently in Pakistan.
A stretch limousine that federal records show was owned by Hussain's company, Prestige Limousine, crashed in the city of Schoharie on October 6 while carrying a a group of people who were on their way to a birthday party.
Police are investigating why the limo passed by a stop sign and sped off the road at the bottom of a long hill, killing the driver, all 17 passengers, and two other people.
According to the Associated Press, Hussain has been a paid government informant who has helped U.S. law enforcement authorities investigate potential domestic terrorist threats after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The government credited Hussain with rooting out radical Muslims in a sting operation at a mosque in the city of Newburgh, New York, in 2009, according to AP.
Hussain posed as a wealthy representative of a Pakistani terrorist organization in that operation, the jury in the resulting trial was told. Four men were convicted of plotting to attack synagogues and shoot down military planes.
According to AP, Hussein "drove a BMW and other luxury vehicles provided by the FBI to maintain his cover" and "made hundreds of hours of video and audio tapes of the defendants picking targets for jihad and ranting against Jews."
His cooperation resulted in the conviction of the four men in the thwarted plot.
Defense lawyers and civil liberties groups accused the government of entrapment in the case, and the judge who sentenced the defendants said the plot would not have been hatched if the government had not instigated it with the sting operation.
In his own testimony at the trial, Hussain said he first entered the United States in Texas with his wife and two sons in the 1990s and later went to Albany, the New York State capital, where he received asylum.
Hussain said he was working as a government translator in 2003 when he pleaded guilty to fraud for helping someone get their driver's license illegally. He avoided further jail time by agreeing to working as an FBI informant.
AP said the FBI declined to comment on Hussain on October 8.
At a news conference on October 8, New York State police Major Robert Patnaude did not indicate how long Hussain has been in Pakistan.
He said it is not yet clear whether Hussain might face charges over the crash, which appeared to be the deadliest land-vehicle accident in the United States since 2005.
It was the country's deadliest transportation accident of any kind since a plane crash in New York State killed 50 people in 2009.
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