2011-08-12 / Top Stories

Ethics Committee Says Meeks Guilty On‘Loan’

By Howard Schwach

A House ethics probe of Rockaway representative, Congressman Gregory Meeks, is focusing on possible criminal charges for his failure to report a $40,000 payment from a businessman that investigators say appears to have been an illegal gift – and not a loan, as he has claimed.

The bipartisan Ethics Committee on Friday of last week announced it would investigate Meeks over the $40,000 he was given by businessman Ed Ahmad in 2007, and it released an investigator’s report that blasted Meeks for being uncooperative with the probe.

“After review, the committee has unanimously voted to accept for further review of an allegation that Representative Meeks failed to disclose a payment he received in 2007 in a timely manner,” the report said. It will also look into allegations that the “loan” was really a gift because there were none of the “normal indicators” of a loan attached to the money.

The House bars lawmakers from accepting gifts and has strict rules for loans – including requirements that they include interest payments and collateral.

The committee also released an April report from the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics, which conducts preliminary investigation, cataloguing serious charges against Meeks.

The report found:

* Meeks refused to cooperate with investigators and refused to turn over loan documents.

* There is “substantial reason” to believe he failed to disclose the gift, in violation of House rules and federal law.

* There was “no evidence” that there were “normal” indicators of a “legitimate loan,” and drew a “negative inference” that he got the “$40,000 gift” “on a basis other than a legitimate loan.”

Meeks has said the $40,000 was a loan from Ahmad – although he did not disclose it on his 2007 or 2008 personal financial-disclosure documents.

He revealed it only in 2010 – after the FBI had questioned Ahmad, whom the feds arrested last month and charged with mortgage fraud. Ahmad is now free on $2.5 million bail.

Meeks paid off the loan by getting another loan, for $59,000, from another New York supporter, Dennis Mehiel, a principal at Four M Investments.

The ethics panel exonerated Meeks on that loan, in 2010, since he used his home as collateral and it had a normal rate – even though the ethics office found that “Four M does not provide any form of financial services to clients.”

“I will respect the committee’s review process and withhold my comments until it completes its work,” Meeks said in a statement.

In a response to the report, Meeks’ lawyer, Brian Svoboda, said the inquiry was brought on by Meeks’ own effort to “self-correct.”

The attorney added that the House had no jurisdiction for the formal investigation, and that Meeks should be exonerated on those grounds.

At the same time, the ethics committee cleared Meeks for his involvement with another loan that was secured by the mortgage to his mainland home. For that loan, Meeks had all the proper paperwork, even though the loan was made by a political ally.

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Meeks should resign.

Meeks should resign.

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