Two brothers who own a Queens construction safety company have pleaded guilty to helping orchestrate a straw donor scheme that aimed to generate illegal public matching funds for Mayor Adams’ 2021 campaign, Manhattan prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Shahid and Yahya Mushtaq, owners of Ecosafety Consultants, entered their pleas on one misdemeanor conspiracy charge each during an afternoon hearing before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Althea Drysdale. They won’t face jail time as a result of their pleas, but agreed to both pay $500 fines and complete 35 hours of community service each, said Doug Cohen, a spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who’s bringing the Adams campaign straw donor case.
Neither Adams nor his campaign are implicated in the indictment or accused of wrongdoing.
The Mushtaqs’ company, which is also named as a defendant in the case, entered a deferred prosecution agreement as part of the guilty pleas. That agreement will require the company “to make witnesses available and provide information and documents upon request” as Bragg continues to prosecute the straw donor case against the Mushtaqs’ co-defendants, Cohen said.
The Mushtaqs could not be reached for comment after their pleas.
Besides the Mushtaqs, four other individuals have been charged as part of the straw donor indictment, including Dwayne Montgomery, a former NYPD inspector who served alongside Adams in the NYPD and has maintained a friendship with him ever since, according to City Hall officials.
Asked for comment on Tuesday’s guilty pleas, Evan Thies, Adams’ 2021 campaign spokesman, referred the Daily News to a statement he issued after the indictment was first unsealed in July: “The campaign always held itself to the highest standards, and we would never tolerate these actions.”
According to Bragg’s indictment, the Mushtaqs, Montgomery and the other co-defendants made dozens of contributions to Adams’ campaign in the names of individuals who were unaware their identities were being used for that purpose — so-called “straw donors.” The co-defendants used the straw donors to work around limits on how much money they could personally contribute to Adams, a setup that illegally increased the amount of public matching funds the Adams campaign qualified for, prosecutors allege.
Among the unsuspecting straw donors were employees of Ecosafety, according to Bragg.
In an intercepted conversation, one of the co-defendants, Shamsuddin Riza, told Yahya Mushtaq to “use a straw man” to funnel cash to Adams’ campaign, prosecutors allege.
The defendants hoped that by funneling the illicit cash to Adams, they’d net lucrative city contracts and otherwise get favorable treatment from his administration once he took office, prosecutors said.
Adams’ 2021 campaign says it has returned donations identified as illegal by Bragg’s indictment.
While neither Adams nor his campaign are directly accused of wrongdoing, Rachel Atcheson, a top aide to the mayor, was in contact with Montgomery during the alleged scheme and helped organize a fund-raiser with him for the mayor, according to a DA document first reported by the Daily News.
Adams also appears to have been in touch with Montgomery about a 2021 campaign fund-raiser, prosecutors say.
“[Adams] said he doesn’t want to do anything if he doesn’t get 25 Gs,” Montgomery is quoted in court documents as telling one of his co-defendants, Shamsuddin Riza, in an intercepted phone call.
Since Bragg unsealed the indictment against the Mushtaqs and their co-defendants, The News and other outlets have reported on other sets of donations to Adams’ 2021 campaign that are raising eyebrows.
Law enforcement and election watchdogs earlier this month said three donations highlighted by The News set off alarm bells because the people listed as the contributors denied giving the money.