Ex-FBI Informant Sued for Fatal Limo Crash That Killed 20

(CN) – The parents of one of 20 people killed in the limo collision that devastated a community in upstate New York last month brought a lawsuit Monday against the company’s owner: a former FBI informant behind one of the most controversial terrorism prosecutions in memory.

A body is draped under a blanket at the scene of a fatal crash in Schoharie, N.Y., on Oct. 6, 2018. (Tom Heffernan Sr. via AP, File)

Shahed Hussain, the owner of Prestige Limousine & Chauffeur Service, first made news in 2012 as the FBI informant who offered $250,000 to four men willing to participate in a plot to bomb a Bronx synagogue and shoot Stinger missiles at Stewart Air Force Base.

The men, who came to be known as the Newburgh Four, took the informant’s bait and were arrested by the FBI. A federal jury rejected their entrapment defense, and each received a 25-year prison sentence. The case would spark outcries against what critics described as government-manufactured terrorism plots.

Hussain would fade from the headlines until one of his limos was involved in an Oct. 6, 2018, collision that killed 20 people.

In the first lawsuit over the crash, the parents of 29-year-old Amanda Rivenburg accuse Hussain of having hid signs that the 2001 Ford Excursion involved in the accident was not fit to drive.

Represented by Girvin & Felazzo attorney Salvatore Ferlazzo, Thomas and Donna Rivenberg brought their suit Monday in Albany County Supreme Court, taking aim at Hussain; his son, Nauman Hussain; and the elder Hussain’s company, Prestige Limousine & Chauffeur Service.

After a March 2018 inspection, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles issued violations because the stretch limo had 18 seats installed, eight more than the 10-passenger capacity, according to the complaint.

On its way to Brewery Ommegang for a birthday party, the limo had 17 passengers in it on Oct. 6 when it blew through an intersection in Schoharie, colliding with a Toyota Highlander that was parked in front of an Apple Barrel Country Store.

“Upon information and belief, the Ford Excursion was also inspected by the DMV in September of 2018, and once again failed inspection for, among other things, failing to have a federal certificate to operate, as Well as mechanical issues concerning the brake systems, defective emergency exits and defective windshield wipers,” the 11-page complaint states.

Rivenberg’s family says that the Department of Transportation found the limo illegal to drive on public roads and placed an “unserviceable” sticker on the windshield.

According to the complaint, a Prestige employee removed that “unserviceable” sticker before the date of the collision, and the driver, Scott Lisinicchia, did not have the proper license to operate the limo.

The Rivenburg family seeks punitive damages, alleging one count of gross negligence and one of wrongful death.

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