Thursday, July 18, 2013 8:29 pm
Suspect in drag racing deaths on bail in US case
By MARYCLAIRE DALEAssociated Press
Khusen Akhmedov, 23, had also racked up four speeding tickets since 2009 and a charge of driving on a suspended license. He paid just a few hundred dollars to settle three of the speeding tickets, and was due in court on the other one next month.
Akhmedov, of Lancaster, now faces far more serious charges for allegedly mowing down 28-year-old Samara Banks and her boys late Tuesday as the family crossed a busy road notorious for both drag racing and pedestrian deaths. Her oldest son, a 5-year-old, survived.
A judge set bail Thursday at $2.5 million each for Akhmedov and the other driver, 30-year-old Ahmen Holloman of Philadelphia, on third-degree murder, vehicular homicide and other charges. Prosecutors argue that they are equally responsible, given the alleged street racing.
Photos posted on Akhmedov's Facebook page appear to show him with the 2012 Audi involved in the crash, while a short video purports to show him racing another car. The Audi has a police sticker on it.
It was not immediately clear if he or Holloman have defense lawyers. Akhmedov's lawyer in the ambulance fraud case did not immediately return a message Thursday.
Holloman's friends spoke out in his defense Thursday. They denied he was racing Akhmedov, and pointed out he stopped and dialed 911 after the crash.
Friend William Torres told WCAU-TV that Holloman acknowledged speeding, but that Akhmedov came out of nowhere and passed him.
"He told me he might've cut a car or two but that car that pulled up and passed him, he didn't know where it came from," Torres said. "There was no race. That guy was driving reckless, that's what that guy was doing, driving reckless. Now he's trying to involve my friend by saying he was racing."
In the unrelated ambulance-fraud case, federal authorities accuse Akhmedov and six others of recruiting non-emergency patients for trips in substandard ambulances, defrauding Medicare of $3.6 million. He was released on $100,000 bail after the April indictment, which described him as an emergency medical technician.
"Akhmedov transported ambulatory patients, delivered kickback payments to patients and falsified `trip sheets' related patient transport" from April 2011 to June 2012," the indictment charged.
The defendants pleaded not guilty and were set for trial next year. Prosecutors did not oppose bail for Akhmedov, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was required to surrender his passport and any weapons, and to live at the residence he shares with his wife.
She does not have a listed phone number and could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Banks and her sons were struck as they crossed Roosevelt Boulevard at a point with grassy medians dividing the traffic lanes, but no crosswalk or traffic light. The suspects' cars were also cresting a short hill before the crash. The boys who died were ages 7 months, 23 months and 4 years old.
The 5-year-old, who escaped with bumps and bruises, was released from a hospital Thursday, according to Banks' aunt, Tanya Holmes. She was distressed to learn of Akhmedov's driving record, which includes a conviction for driving 17 miles over the speed limit in suburban Bucks County last summer.
"How is it that he's 22, and a Russian immigrant, where do you get the money from to get an Audi?" asked Holmes, a former prison case worker. "I'm 47. I've got a 1999 Ford Taurus."
Roosevelt Boulevard had the nation's 2nd and 3rd most dangerous intersections in a 2001 insurance company study, which tallied 618 crashes at those two intersections alone in a two-year period.
The speed limit is 40 mph where Banks and her boys were killed, but drivers frequently go 10 or 20 mph above that to make - or run - a light, neighbors say. Many residents of the lower-income area don't have cars and are left to traverse the boulevard on foot to get to schools, parks and stores.