FBI Granted More Time in Indictment of Franchisee Who Plotted Wife's Demise

Legal

A startling criminal case brought by the FBI last June against a multi-unit franchisee has now received federal court approval to delay its case for another month. Agents charged the financially troubled restaurateur with conspiring to kill his estranged wife, framing her as a terrorist, and plotting to commit arson on one of his restaurants to collect insurance money.

In its Consent Motion to Exclude Time under Speedy Trial Act, Assistant United States Attorney Paul E. Budlow, along with the new defense attorney for the restaurant owner, requested a continuance of the case for an additional 30 days from last Thursday’s date when it was submitted. The FBI stated that approval of its motion “may keep certain plea resolution options open.” U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher granted the request, extending the case through October 29, 2018. She explained, “The Court finds that the interests of justice served by the resulting delay outweigh the interests of the Defendant and the public in speedy trial.”

The Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant for the case, United States of America v. Khalil Ahmad, reported and posted in Patch.com, was based on an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Sean Regan, which details the events that lead up to Ahmad’s arrest. The franchisee charged was the owner of several restaurants including Subway, Taco Bell, and the first Steak ‘n Shake franchise in Hanover, Maryland.

Franchisee’s rags to riches story

Prior to his arrest, Khalil Ahmad was interviewed for an article by Capital Gazette on June 21, 2015, as he was opening his first Steak ‘n Shake in Millersville, Maryland. It told his rags-to-riches story of how Ahmad, who couldn’t speak English, came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1998 with only $32 to his name, working at gas stations to save money. He eventually bought a business from an Indian immigrant who owned restaurants in the area, and sponsored Ahmad for his green card. After living apart from his wife for seven years, he brought his family to the U.S. As of 2015, he owned five restaurants in the region and was able to sell it for $70,000.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his Steak ‘n Shake, Ahmad said, “I came to this country to work, I’m not here to waste time. Somebody who takes no opportunity in this country fails for every country.”

Steak ‘n Shake development plans go awry

Soon riddled with financial problems and lawsuits, Ahmad had to halt his plans to open additional Steak ‘n Shake units in outlying areas in Millersville, Maryland including one at BWI Airport. Court documents state that when his wife filed divorce papers claiming he was abusive to her and her family, he became concerned that she would be awarded a substantial amount of money through divorce proceedings, which could cause financial hardship with Ahmad.

The complaint states that Ahmad was arrested on June 5, 2018 and was indicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on a federal stalking charge, and a charge of conspiracy to commit second-degree arson under state law. The document says he used electronic communication services or systems of interstate commerce and cellular telephones to engage in a source of conduct to harass and intimidate another person. In doing so, he placed her in fear of death or serious bodily injury and caused emotional stress.

As background, on May 10, 2018 an individual had contacted the Anne Arundel County Police Department (AAPD) to provide them with information which he/she received from Khalil Ahmad. The informant alleged the restaurant owner wanted to have his wife killed, and that she had obtained a protective order from the divorce court to keep Ahmad away. Earlier that month, the police issued a criminal summons on Ahmad for violating that order. The divorce case was set for trial on June 21, 2018. Ahmad told the informant that he wanted his wife arrested on terrorist charges prior to that court date.

When Ahmad was ready to move forward with his plan to make his wife look like a terrorist and have the informant burn down Ahmad’s business in order to collect insurance money, Ahmad paid the informant $5,000 over two separate meetings as a down payment to have his wife look like a terrorist. The money was secretly seized by law enforcement and placed into evidence pending the outcome of the investigation.

With the police and FBI involved, all conversations were recorded by audio and video, including one where Ahmad tells the informant he wants one of his restaurants to be burned down by tampering with the hot water heater and gas lines. Ahmad’s brother, who was present in one of the meetings, also asked the informant to get him fraudulent immigration forms, “as he needed them.”

Knowing Ahmad was planning to set his wife up as a terrorist, planting firearms, a ballistic vest, bottles of alcohol, and extremist jihad writings in her possession without her knowledge, the Anne Arundel police helped stag a traffic stop of the wife’s vehicle, with a uniformed police officer searching it. The informant presented photos of the incident to Ahmad as proof that his wife had in fact been arrested.

The informant then, at the direction of investigators, proceeded to a pre-arranged meeting location at a Dunkin Donuts restaurant, wired with FBI and police audio/video recording equipment. Eventually, Ahmad paid the informant the remaining money he owed, a total of $7,000 plus a little more for gas money.

Later that day, FBI and Anne Arundel County Police went to Ahmad’s residence to conduct a ruse, the FBI agent’s affidavit states in the complaint. They told him his wife had been arrested and asked if he would talk about her activities. Ahmad explained that his wife was taking classes about terrorism over the phone, and she was attending terrorist training camps. In a second meeting with Ahmad, police and FBI agents gave him his Miranda Warnings. They then confronted him with the truth, presenting him with the damaging videos and audio recordings the informant had produced. Investigative agents showed him how he had left electronic evidence for the FBI case.

According to Special Agent Regan’s affidavit, Khalil Ahmad was then arrested on June 5, 2018 on related state charges in Anne Arundel County and held without bond following a hearing on June 7. A week later, without notification to the victim, his wife, and investigators, the agent learned that a new defense attorney secured a release for Ahmad. That night, investigators spent hours searching for the criminal, but they were unable to find him.

A news report later stated that Ahmad was again arrested on a federal arrest warrant on August 2, but it was not clear if he remained in custody.


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Janet Sparks