California Jewelry Store Owner Sentenced to Prison for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Conspiracy to Launder the Proceeds of Bank Fraud
Safieh Fard, 52, of Escondido, Calif., was sentenced late yesterday to 63 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney. Fard was also ordered to pay $594,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for unpaid individual income taxes. Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division Kathryn Keneally, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr., and the IRS made the announcement.
Fard was convicted by a Santa Ana, Calif., jury on Nov. 21, 2012, of one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and one count of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of bank fraud. Fard’s co-conspirators, her sister Sedigheh Bahramian, and two of her sons, Mohsen Kikalaye and Ahmad Kikalaye, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to related counts of bank fraud in 2010.
According to the indictment and evidence introduced at trial, starting in 1997 and continuing through 2004, Fard and her co-conspirators purchased valuable residential real estate properties, including numerous beachfront properties in Newport Beach, Calif. To obtain mortgages to purchase these properties, Fard and her co-conspirators provided false information to federally insured banks that substantially overstated their income and assets on mortgage applications. Fard submitted mortgage applications that falsely stated she earned over $40,000 per month, despite claiming no taxable income on her federal income tax returns during the eight year conspiracy.
Evidence introduced at trial established that Fard and her co-conspirators bought, sold, and transferred ownership of the properties between and among themselves. Ultimately, the properties were sold to third parties resulting in substantial monetary gain. Fard and her co-conspirators then failed to report capital gains on more than $3.7 million from these sales on their federal income tax returns.
The evidence further established that Fard and her co-conspirators Mohsen Kikalaye and Ahmad Kikalaye sold Newport Beach properties to unrelated third parties and received the proceeds in a large lump-sum payment by either wire transfer or check. Fraud proceeds were then transferred through multiple bank accounts to an account in the name of Fard’s co-conspirator Ahmad Kikalaye, who withdrew proceeds in cash in amounts slightly below the $10,000 federal reporting requirement. Fraud proceeds were also used to buy new real estate properties.
The case was investigated by special agents from IRS - Criminal Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations and prosecuted by Tax Division Trial Attorneys Erin S. Mellen and Mark L. Williams, with valuable support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Santa Ana, Calif.