By Howard Koplowitz
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) blamed an “oversight” for his failure to notify the House clerk’s office of a $40,000 personal loan he received in 2007 from a Richmond Hill real estate developer, which he corrected last month, and said he was not late in filing his 2009 disclosure statement because he received an extension.
In an e-mail to the TimesLedger Newspapers, Meeks noted scrutiny of his finances and his involvement with the New Direction Local Development Corp. began “at the height of the selection process for Aqueduct racino development investors as I fought for local participation.”
House members were required to submit financial disclosure statements, including any loans they had taken out, by May 17.
Meeks did not file the document until June 16, but said he was granted a one-month extension “so that I could undertake an extremely thorough review of my finances and previous disclosure statements.”
The congressman did not say why he believed he needed the thorough review.
One of the items Meeks did not disclose was a $40,000 personal loan in 2007 from Edul Ahmad, a Richmond Hill real estate investor whom the congressman called a “friend.”
Meeks corrected the omission in his latest filing, which indicated he repaid the loan with interest.
“I take full responsibility for and regret this oversight,” he said in the e-mail, noting he “immediately filed amended statements for years 2004 through 2008, and I have implemented processes to guard against such oversights in the future.”
While the New York Daily News reported that Meeks repaid the loan only after the FBI questioned Ahmad about the arrangement, the congressman said he did so because there was a high interest rate attached to it and he replaced that loan with one that had lower interest.
“When I saw this, there was no question that it made financial sense to pay back the loan from Ed Ahmad and replace it with a lower interest rate loan secured by my home, which is exactly what I did during the same week that I filed with my current and amended financial disclosure statements.”
Property records showed Meeks and his wife, Simone-Marie Meeks, took out a $59,650 mortgage on their $830,000 St. Albans home June 18 with a 7.3 percent interest rate.
It was unclear what the interest was on Ahmad’s personal loan.
Meeks took out two mortgages on his home, which was designed by architect and campaign contributor Robert Gaskin, when he bought it in October 2006 totaling $701,922, according to property records. Both loans were from Washington Mutual.
Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating New Direction, a charity founded by Meeks and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), for questionable accounting practices.
New Direction was set up to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina and collected tens of thousands of dollars for the cause, but only doled out a small percentage of the funds raised.
Meeks said the criticism of Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which was awarded the video lottery terminal contract for Aqueduct Race Track and listed influential southeast Queens minister the Rev. Floyd Flake as an investor, was unfair and accused state officials of changing the rules of the bidding process only after AEG was selected.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.