A Lilburn man has not only been caught up in the scandal involving city of Atlanta officials and contracts at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, but he has also pleaded guilty in federal court to his involvement, which included committing bribery.
Hayat Choudhary, 58, pleaded guilty to paying a city of Atlanta Department of Procurement official $20,000 to secure a contract at the airport for his business. Choudhary was the CEO of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services Inc., which did business as Meskerem Restaurant.
“Pay-to-play bribery schemes cause citizens to lose trust in the integrity of the contracting process,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said. “Public corruption involving government officials is reprehensible. Our office remains committed to eliminating corruption in government at all levels, and we want to thank the city of Atlanta for its cooperation in this investigation.”
The U.S. Department of Justice said Atlanta’s Department of Procurement announced plans to award a 10-year contract, with a three-year renewal option, for a vendor who would operate a kitchen and restaurant at the airport’s Ground Transportation Building on May 2, 2017. The goal was for the eatery to serve taxi, limousine and rideshare drivers who provided transportation to passengers going to and from the airport.
It was project that the kitchen and restaurant would generate $200,000 in revenues while generating an annual rent income to the city of $13,000.
The Department of Procurement official, identified by federal officials only as “Official-1,” was responsible for overseeing the bidding process. That meant they had influence over who received the contract and federal prosecutors said Choudhary paid “Official-1” a $10,000 bribe after the contract was announced.
Prosecutors said “Official-1” then told Choudhary that he would have to pay an additional $10,000 bribe if he wanted to win the contract. He then won the contract after the second bribe was paid.
“Choudhary tried to buy his way around a process that is meant to be fair to all contract applicants,” FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker said. “His actions erode the public’s trust in government and that’s why the FBI and our law enforcement partners are determined to prosecute those who would undermine the integrity of how contracts are awarded.”