Belgian and Lebanese national sentenced for electronic fraud and money laundering | USAO-MA
BOSTON — A Belgian and Lebanese national licensed under Illinois law has been found guilty by a federal jury of fraud and money laundering charges in connection with multiple scams that defrauded victims in several states.
Hassan A. Abbas, 64, of Belgium, was convicted after a six-day jury trial of one count of money laundering conspiracy, one count of money laundering, two counts of illegal monetary transactions and two counts of wire fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin scheduled sentencing for September 2022. Abbas was indicted in January 2020, then charged in a superseding indictment in November 2020.
“The accused was part of a scheme that played with people’s emotions, tricking them into taking their money. The funds he swindled were supposed to be used as a down payment on a house or to finance a comfortable retirement. There are real victims in financial fraud, and my office stands up for the victims. We always have and we always will. said US attorney Rachael S. Rollins.
“Hassan Abbas should be ashamed of himself for using his lawyer’s license as a shield to exploit the hopes and dreams of innocent victims to line his own pockets. He targeted, exploited and systematically ripped them off without a second thought,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Last year, Massachusetts residents said they lost more than $83 million to romance and business scams, and the FBI is committed to holding the criminals behind these scams accountable for the harm they cause to ordinary citizens and our financial institutions.”
Between June 2017 and January 2019, Abbas and others defrauded victims through a series of romance scams, business email compromises (BECs), and other scams designed to trick victims into getting fired. money in bank accounts they controlled. A BEC scheme is a sophisticated fraud often targeting individuals and businesses involved in wire transfer payments. Fraud is carried out by compromising and/or “spoofing” legitimate business email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques, in order to trick victims into transferring funds to accounts controlled by crooks. In romance scams, perpetrators typically create fictitious online personas to develop online romantic relationships with individuals in the United States, and then exploit those relationships to obtain money and/or property.
Abbas created bogus corporate entities and opened bank accounts in the names of these entities. Under false pretenses, individual and corporate victims were then instructed to transfer funds to accounts controlled by Abbas. Some victims were in the process of buying homes and believed the funds were intended for that purpose, including two Massachusetts victims who were tricked into transferring money to someone they believed to be their real estate broker. Others, including a third victim from Massachusetts, believed they were transferring funds on behalf of or for the benefit of their romantic partners. Victim companies were also targeted as part of the scheme and tricked into making bill payments to accounts controlled by Abbas.
Shortly after receiving the funds from the victims, Abbas transferred the funds to overseas accounts, domestic personal accounts or spent the funds on personal expenses.
The wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of probation and a fine of up to $250,000. The money laundering charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of probation and a fine of $500,000, which is double the value of the criminal property. The illegal monetary transaction charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of probation and a fine of $250,000, which is double the value of the criminal property. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on US sentencing guidelines and the laws that govern sentencing in a criminal case.
US Attorney Rollins and FBI SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. attorneys Mackenzie A. Queenin and David Holcomb of Rollins’ securities, finance and cyberfraud unit are pursuing the case.