Home » General Contractors » US housing department adviser quits amid questions of fraud and inflated biography

US housing department adviser quits amid questions of fraud and inflated biography

Naved Jafry, who called for radical privatization to fix Americas cities, steps down following questions from the Guardian about his record

He said he was a multimillionaire an international property developer with a plan to fix Americas cities through radical privatization. He felt that Donald Trumps administration was where he was meant to work.

It was a natural fit, Naved Jafry said in an interview. Citing connections across the military, business and academia, he said: I bring, and draw on, experiences from different areas of knowledge, like a polymath.

Jafry was contracted to work for Trumps housing and urban development department (Hud). His government email signature said his title was senior adviser. Jafry said he used his role to advocate for microcities, where managers privately set their own laws and taxes away from central government control.

But those plans are now stalled. Jafry, 38, said he had resigned from his position with Hud after the Guardian asked him to explain multiple allegations of fraud as well as exaggerations in his biography.

Jafry, who has also been known by Jafari and Jafri, apologised for inflating his military record but denied making other false claims. He said he resigned because the Guardians questions tarnished his reputation inside Hud.

You and I both know we live in the world of opinion and facts merging together, he said.

Hud declined to discuss Jafry. The finding may present a new problem for Hud secretary Ben Carson. On Thursday, Sarah Sanders, Trumps press secretary, said the White House was looking into a controversy around a $31,000 furniture set ordered for Carsons office. After Carson claimed he had no involvement, emails released on Wednesday said he and his wife actually picked out the set.

Styling himself as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Jafry said he controlled a multimillion-dollar trust fund built since 1885 by relatives in India. According to court records, however, he struggled to pay rent and bills while engaging in a series of failed takeovers of gas stations and other ventures in Texas over the past decade.

Naved
Naved Jafry said his job at Hud was a natural fit. Photograph: Handout

In November 2013, a judge ordered Jafry and a fuel company he chaired to repay more than $800,000 to the family of Alfred Oglesby, a former NFL player and investor in the fuel firm, who died in 2009. Oglesbys widow accused Jafry of fraud. Jafry has not paid the money. Debt collectors said they had been trying to locate him for years.

David Freedman, an attorney for Oglesbys family, said he was surprised Jafry had resurfaced in an influential role in the government. If he is advising Donald Trump were screwed we should just surrender to North Korea right now, said Freedman.

Jafry denied the lawsuits allegations. He said he never received Oglesbys investment, so he didnt owe Oglesbys family money.

Having arrived in the US in about 2005, Jafry was the subject of several other legal actions in Texas. Owners of gas stations that Jafry tried to buy sued him and his business associates, repeatedly accusing Jafry of fraud and breaching contracts.

Jafry denied wrongdoing. Two lawsuits were settled; a third was dismissed after Jafry did not respond and the plaintiffs failed to locate him. He said the deals collapsed because one owner made false claims about his property, while another failed to disclose that nearby construction work would harm trade.

In February 2008, Jafry drew up a list of his holdings that said his personal wealth totalled $18.3m. The document, which was later filed to court, attributed most of his wealth to 164 acres of residential land in Mumbai, where he was raised.

Yet after the filing of an eviction lawsuit in September 2010, Jafry was ordered by a Texas court to leave his four-bedroom home in Richmond and give the landlord $10,000, after failing to pay rent for seven months. He was also sued by the local power company after failing to pay his $4,300 bill.

Jafry said the 2008 document was accurate at the time, but that his wealth had since evaporated because his claim to the Mumbai land was revoked by relatives unhappy with his troubled US ventures. He said he had already left the rented house when the eviction lawsuit was filed after being unsatisfied with the property.

Initially, Jafry told the Guardian he had been hired to work on Huds envision centers, which work to reduce the number of people dependent on public housing. He later said he had not worked there after all, but declined to explain. Hud declined repeated requests to clarify what Jafry worked on.

Asked in the earlier interview whether he had discussed microcities with Carson, Jafry said: We are working on a political solution on this. Jafry said he had met Donald Trump before the 2016 election in a general setting, but declined to elaborate.

In addition to Jafrys financial issues, a series of misrepresentations or exaggerations were found in a review of his personal website, other online sources and biographical information he provided.

During an interview, Jafry described himself as a veteran of the US army and said he was deployed to Kosovo. When confronted with his service record, though, he said he in fact served as a reservist in the army national guard, and remained in California while giving logistics support to colleagues in Kosovo.

A version of Jafrys biography on his website said he held a degree in law and alternative dispute resolution from National University in La Jolla, California. Prof Jack Hamlin, chairman of Nationals department of professional studies, said: We do not offer a law degree. He declined to discuss Jafrys case. Jafry later said he received a BA in pre-law studies.

Jafry has said that before arriving in the US, he made millions in the hospitality industry in Africa. An SEC filing from October 2007 said Jafry was a founding partner of the Marakanelo Hotel Group in Botswana. His former website biography said he had owned a group of safari resorts and hotels in Africa which had merged with Marakanelo Hotels, securing him a $7.5m windfall.

But Sibo Gumpo, the group commercial manager of Crest Hotels, which operates the Marakanelo sites, said in a series of emails that this was not the case. We do not have a record of the transaction, said Gumpo.

Jafry has over recent years led a series of small energy-related companies operating under variants of the name Zeons.

Among the projects listed on the Zeons website under Jafrys microcities branding is a residential property development in Chester county, Pennsylvania, named the Sussex Estates. But this is not a microcity. According to public records, it is owned by Ram Naidu, a retired doctor.

Naved does not have any financial interest in the Sussex development, Sukhi Singh, who assisted Naidu, said in an email. Singh said Naidu was a friend of Jafrys mother. Jafry said he had a verbal agreement to promote the development.

Raffi Williams, a Hud spokesman, said in an email that Jafry was hired through Accel Corporation, a contractor. When this was put to Stacye Loman, the owner of Accel Corporation, she said in an email: That is an incorrect statement. Loman then gave the names of two different companies that she said had hired Jafry. She did not answer when asked if these had been subcontracted by her company.

Williams stressed that Huds contract with Accel was procured in 2015. While Accel did begin providing services to Hud under the Obama administration in 2015, public records said Hud signed contracts for $2.1m worth of services from Accel in 2017 under Trump and Carson.

One record said Accel signed an $800,000 deal with Hud on 26 September 2017 to provide expert guidance in helping senior Hud officials to embrace change and provide dynamic leadership. Jafry said he began work for Hud in October 2017.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/15/ben-carson-adviser-naved-jafry-resigns-hud