Essex County Sheriff’s employee charged with attempted extortion

NEWARK, NJ — An employee of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office was charged with soliciting payments from a man posing as a land developer for information regarding properties under foreclosure, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced in a Sept. 19 press release.

Abdush Shahid Ahmad, 51, of Newark, was charged by complaint with attempted extortion under color of official right affecting interstate commerce. He made his initial court appearance Sept. 19 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, as an employee in the civil process division of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, Ahmad had access to writs of execution on homes to be sold at public auction by the Sheriff’s Office as a result of foreclosure actions. Ahmad allegedly indicated to a cooperating witness that he had access to that information before the information was made public on the Essex County Sheriff’s Office website or announced in local newspapers.

Ahmad allegedly attempted to sell approximately 20 writs of execution to the cooperating witness, who posed as a land developer, and who was operating at the direction of law enforcement agents. According to court documents, Ahmad received $100 for each writ and made clear that he expected an additional $4,900 for each property that the cooperating witness was able to acquire using the non-public information. Ahmad allegedly recorded the terms of the arrangement in a contract that he signed and presented to the cooperating witness in person, to avoid using his email to send the contract to the cooperating witness.

The count of attempted extortion under color of official right affecting interstate commerce carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The allegations and charges in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proved guilty in a court of law.