WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY., failed to disclose a $40,000 loan from a real estate broker on his financial disclosure reports but there's no credible evidence that the errors were knowing or willful, the House Ethics Committee concluded Thursday.
The committee declined to punish the eight-term congressman, noting that he corrected the errors and omissions in 2010, reporting the liability that should have been on his annual reports from 2007 through 2009.
The decision not to discipline Meeks was similar to findings in other cases in which a House member corrected errors and omissions that were not in bad faith.
The committee also said the evidence did not establish that the loan from Queens real estate broker Edul Ahmad was an impermissible gift. Meeks has contended the loan terms were in writing but has been unable to produce the loan document, saying he misplaced it.
The committee found Meeks repaid the loan in June 2010 and the congressman stated the interest rate was 12.5 percent.
The committee said Ahmad's lawyer contended there was no loan document signed by Meeks and no fixed interest rate. The panel added that investigators were unable to confirm this allegation because they were unable to interview Ahmad _ who pleaded guilty to fraud charges in an unrelated federal case.
Ahmad's attorney told the committee staff that his client would decline any request for a voluntary interview and, if subpoenaed, would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination unless he received immunity from criminal prosecution.
The committee said that unless Ahmad provided documentary evidence indicating the payment to Meeks was not a loan, "it would be unreasonable for the committee to conclude ... that Representative Meeks had been untruthful."
The independent Office of Congressional Ethics, run by a board of non-legislators, had recommended the review of Meeks' financial disclosure statements but did not address whether the money was a gift.
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