USA news December 16, 2011

Steve Massiah's passport confiscated

USA government officials have confiscated Steve Massiah's passport and restricted his travel to New York after arresting him on November 22 on charges of allegedly defrauding banks and mortgage companies by falsifying mortgage loan applications. Massiah, the USA captain, is currently out on bail; the charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Robert Nardoza, a public affairs officer with the US Attorney's Office representing the Eastern District of New York, confirmed these details to ESPNcricinfo and said Massiah was given permission to travel to Florida for the $50,000 US Cricket Open from December 1 to 4 in Lauderhill.

USA Cricket Association (USACA) president Gladstone Dainty told ESPNcricinfo that the board still had not had any discussions regarding Massiah's legal situation. "Don't call me about that please," Dainty said. New York regional director Lester Hooper said he had spoken to Massiah on the phone a few days ago to offer support but said that even if he was permitted to travel, it is unlikely Massiah, 32, would participate for the New York Region in the USACA Twenty20 Nationals scheduled from January 20 to 22 in Florida. That tournament will be used as a selection tool to pick USA's squad for the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier from March 13 to 24 in the UAE.

"I'm pretty sure cricket is the last thing on his mind," Hooper said. "I think he would at least want to try and get this whole legal situation behind him before he would even think about representing the region or USACA for that matter. That would definitely be something the [USACA] executive committee would have to really take into consideration, but like anything else I would like to believe that someone is innocent until proven guilty.

"He was very upbeat and he's looking forward to his day in court," Hooper said about his conversation with Massiah. "I think for his work and his dedication to US cricket over the past years, I think we owe it to Steve to say a prayer for him and wait until the cards are laid out and we're able to get a better understanding of exactly what happened and make a better judgment, a more educated judgment, in terms of what happened or what didn't happen."

According to the arrest warrant, a copy of which is with ESPNcricinfo, Massiah and two other men conspired "to execute a scheme and artifice to defraud a financial institution", listed as Countrywide Home Loans, "and to obtain moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by and under the custody and control of such financial institution, by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises."

In the warrant, an FBI agent alleges that Massiah acted as a straw buyer for a co-conspirator, believed to be Ed Ahmad. Ahmad, the owner of Century 21 Ahmad Realty in Ozone Park, New York, was indicted in August on 10 counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. He faces up to 30 years in prison and is free on $2.5 million bail. One of the financial institutions listed as being defrauded in Ahmad's indictment is Countrywide Home Loans.

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey