×

Prosecutor: Repair shop billing not to blame for crash

By MARY ESCH

The Associated Press

ALBANY — A repair shop’s improperly billed brake work had nothing to do with the catastrophic brake failure on a stretch limousine that crashed and killed 20 people in rural upstate New York, the district attorney prosecuting the limo company operator said in a court document filed Wednesday.

Information from a former repair shop employee doesn’t exonerate limo company operator Nauman Hussain, as the defense claims, District Attorney Susan Mallery said in a letter filed in Schoharie County Court.

The Mavis Discount Tire employee told investigators in a September interview that a brake master cylinder installation and brake flush were billed but not done months before the Oct. 6, 2018, crash in Schoharie. Mallery said neither of those caused the crash and it was unclear whether the work was needed at the time.

The former employee told investigators it was a common billing practice at Mavis to substitute certain services on invoices for the ones actually performed, in order to meet corporate sales quotas. A Mavis spokesperson said the allegations made by the former employee about its billing practices were inaccurate or misleading.

The Mavis employee’s assertions were disclosed by Mallery in a court document filed Oct. 7. Hussain’s lawyers responded with a letter on Oct. 8 saying the information “exonerated” Hussain and requesting that manslaughter and homicide charges against him be dismissed.

Mallery said other braking system deficiencies were to blame for the crash and would have been discovered through proper inspection and maintenance.

She said Brian Chase, an expert hired by the prosecution to examine the limousine, determined that the master cylinder was functioning properly at the time of the crash and that “pre-existing deficiencies” caused reduced braking ability in the front brakes and left rear brake. He also found an inoperable right rear brake and a corroded rear crossover brake tube.

“The issues with the limousine’s braking system would have been discovered through proper vehicle inspection and maintenance,” Mallery wrote. She said Hussain allowed the limousine to be driven despite being told repeatedly by a state Department of Transportation inspector that the vehicle required an extensive DOT bus inspection, which would have revealed the brake deficiencies.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Hussain’s lawyers said their client is innocent and Mavis’ billing practices were “the true direct cause of this tragic accident.”