Monday, December 10, 2018

Belgian National Extradited to Boston for Scam Targeting Charities and Law Firms

BOSTON – A Belgian national was extradited from Morocco to the United States yesterday to face charges for his role in an e-mail scam that used counterfeit cashier’s checks to defraud charities and law firms.

Aref Zokita Said, 36, of Belgium, was charged in an indictment unsealed today with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In April 2018, Said was arrested in Morocco and extradited to the United States, arriving in Boston last night. He was detained following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston today.

According to the indictment, beginning no later than August 2013, Said and his co-conspirators defrauded law firms and non-profits, including charities, by sending them fraudulent cashier’s checks and convincing them to wire money to members of the scheme, with the false assurance that the fake checks would cover the expense. Once the checks were discovered to be fraudulent, the victims’ bank accounts were debited, and the victims were left with thousands of dollars in losses, having unwittingly forwarded their own money to a member of the conspiracy.

The charging statutes provide for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss involved in the scam, and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and John Gibbons, U.S. Marshal for the District of Massachusetts, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen A. Kearney and Brian A. PĂ©rez-Daple of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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