Muaad Salem, Hanan Widdi, Najeh Widdi, Hazem Woodi, Daxesj Patel and Fahim Suleiman each entered guilty pleas before the Honorable James S. Gwin today to charges arising from a scheme to obtain false and fraudulent U.S. Treasury tax refund checks, the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced. Specifically, Salem, Najeh Widdi and Woodi entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud; Hanan Widdi entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit mail fraud; Patel entered a guilty plea to two counts of submitting false claims and one count of false statements; and Suleiman entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit mail fraud; mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, between April 15, 2009 to at least August 2011, Salem, Suleiman, Najeh Widdi, Hanan Widdi, Woodi, Patel and other unknown co-conspirators defrauded the United States by filing false and fraudulent tax returns, many in the names of recently deceased taxpayers, and directing refunds to controlled locations in the state of Florida. The U.S. Treasury checks generated by the false and fraudulent returns were then sent by the U.S. mail to co-conspirators in Ohio who sold and distributed the checks for negotiation at various businesses and banking institutions. As part of their plea agreements, the defendants admitted that the fraud loss caused by their conduct was between $1 and 2.5 million and that the offenses involved more than ten victims.
Sentencing is scheduled on May 29, 2012, for Najeh Widdi and Patel; on May 30, 2012, for Hanan Widdi and Woodi; and on June 1, 2012, for Salem and Suleiman. Mail fraud is punishable by a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison; conspiracy to defraud the United States is punishable by a maximum potential sentence of 10 years; conspiracy to commit mail fraud, making a false claim against the United States and making a false statement are each punishable by a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison; aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years to follow conviction on any other offense. All of the above sentences are also punishable by a fine of $250,000 for each count of conviction.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary D. Arbeznik of the Northern District of Ohio and Trial Attorney Jessica W. Knight of the Justice Department’s Tax Division following investigation by the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the United States Postal Service.