Business owner sentenced for bribery of city official in Atlanta

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Hayat Choudhary, CEO of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services, Inc., doing business as Meskerem Restaurant, has been sentenced to federal prison for paying $20,000 in cash to a City of Atlanta Department of Procurement official to secure a contract at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Choudhary, 58, of Lilburn, Georgia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones to one years, ten months’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, according to the Sept. 9, 2020 press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. The FBI investigated the case.

According to a press release which was based on evidence presented in court, on or about May 2, 2017, the Department of Procurement announced that the City of Atlanta was seeking a contract for a vendor to establish and operate a kitchen/restaurant at the Ground Transportation Building at Atlanta’s airport.  The kitchen/restaurant would serve the large and growing number of taxi, limousine, and rideshare drivers that provided transportation services to passengers traveling to and from Atlanta’s airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the principal airport for Georgia and the southeastern United States.  According to the press relaas, in 2017, it was the busiest passenger airport in the world and generated more than $500 million in revenue for the City of Atlanta, including approximately $8.8 million in fees and charges from private ground transportation companies (such as taxicabs, limousines, ridesharing, and hotel and parking lot shuttles).  One such company was Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services, Inc., d/b/a Meskerem Restaurant, owned and operated by Choudhary.

The Department of Procurement projected that the kitchen/restaurant at the Ground Transportation Building would generate annual revenue of $200,000, and generate rent payments to the City of Atlanta of $13,000 per year.  The City of Atlanta offered a ten-year term for the kitchen/restaurant contract, with a three-year renewal option.  Choudhary’s company was one of the bidders for the contract.

The official, who is identified only as “Official-1” in the press release, was the Department of Procurement officer responsible for overseeing the bidding process and according to the evidence presented in court, Choudhary paid a $10,000 bribe to Official-1 to obtain the contract.  After the first bribe payment, Official-1 instructed Choudhary that he had to pay another $10,000 to receive the contract.  Choudhary paid the second $10,000 bribe.  Following Choudhary’s payment of $20,000 to Official-1, the City of Atlanta awarded the contract to Choudhary’s company.

 

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