Key player in Adams campaign straw donor scheme pleads guilty

Shamsuddin Riza pleaded guilty Thursday to helping orchestrate a straw donor scheme that pumped illegal cash into Mayor Adams’ 2021 campaign in what prosecutors say was a scheme aimed at currying political favor in the hopes of landing city contracts.

Riza is the fourth defendant to plead guilty after being charged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office with facilitating the straw donor scheme.

A construction company owner, Riza entered his plea during a Thursday morning court hearing in Manhattan to one felony count of attempted grand larceny. Prosecutors said Riza facilitated the donations in hopes it would put his firm in line for lucrative city contracts once Adams became mayor.

Neither the mayor nor his campaign are implicated in or accused of having known about the scheme.

The presiding judge told Riza during the hearing she expects to sentence him to three years of probation during a hearing next month. As part of his plea deal, he is also prohibited from hosting fundraisers for any political candidates or deliver contributions to any candidates for three years.

“Yes, your honor,” Riza said in the courtroom when the judge asked if he admits that funneled illegal contribution to the Adams campaign.

According to their indictment, between at least August 2020 and November 2021, Riza and his five co-defendants reimbursed people for giving money to Adams’ campaign and donated themselves in the names of dozens of others who didn’t know their identities were being used for that purpose.

Both practices — known as straw donating — are illegal and can generate illicit public matching funds and violate caps on how much money an individual can donate, the indictment charged.

Dwayne Montgomery, the alleged ringleader, ex-NYPD inspector and friend of Adams, pleaded guilty to similar charges as Riza in February. He told Riza in an intercepted July 2021 phone call that “[Adams] said he doesn’t want to do anything if he doesn’t get 25 Gs,” according to court papers.

Riza was caught in intercepted communications instructing two of his other co-defendants, brothers Shahid and Yahya Mushtaq, how to use the names of employees of their construction safety firm as straw donors. He told them to use non-sequential money orders, which are difficult to trace, to make the illegal contributions, prosecutors say.

The Mushtaqs pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme in October as part of a deal that required them to cooperate with prosecutors. With Riza’s plea entered, only two cases prosecuted as part of the scheme remain open, against Ronald Peek and Millicent Redick.

Prosecutors say the ultimate goal for Riza and his co-defendants was to funnel cash to Adams’ campaign to curry political favor with him with the hope that would translate into contracts with city agencies upon him becoming mayor.

Before a 2021 fundraiser for Adams organized by Montgomery, Riza forwarded Montgomery details via email about an upcoming construction project in Brooklyn he was hoping his contractor firm could do work on, according to his indictment.

“Please show to him before Event it will start when he’s in office,” Riza wrote to Montgomery about the project, in a reference to Adams, the indictment says.