Pakistani National Sentenced for Money Laundering Conspiracy
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Raja Mehmood, also known as Raja Ansar Mohammad, age 33, a Pakistani national residing in Brooklyn, New York, today to 39 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to launder money, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Mohammad is in the United States illegally and will be subject to deportation after serving his federal sentence.
“The hawala system can be used by criminals to launder money without using financial institutions, by giving the money to a person in the United States and picking it up in a foreign country,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Identifying hawala networks that violate the law often requires the cooperation of international authorities.”
“This case exemplifies how cooperative law enforcement efforts lead to the exposure of individuals and groups seeking to exploit our financial systems,” said James A. Dinkins, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “ICE will continue to pursue those who circumvent our laws for financial gain.”
“IRS-CI is united with the rest of the law enforcement community in our resolve to financially disrupt criminal organizations that commit crimes against our society and the world economy,” said C. Andre' Martin, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation's Washington DC Field Office.
According to his guilty plea, between May 2006 and September 19, 2007, a cooperating witness, acting at the direction of ICE and FBI agents in Maryland, provided approximately $1,655,000 to Mehmood and his co-defendants in order to transfer the monies abroad through an informal money transfer system called a “hawala,” using a network of persons and/or businesses to transfer money across domestic and international borders without reliance upon conventional banking systems and regulations. The cooperating witness represented that the monies were the proceeds of, and related to, his illegal drug trafficking.
In April and May of 2007, the cooperating witness discussed arrangements for a $500,000 hawala transaction involving a hand-to-hand transfer of cash in Spain. Between June 4 and June 7, 2007, the cooperating witness was directed to meet with Mehmood and three other individuals in New York to hand over the money in $100,000 increments. On June 4, 2007, the cooperating witness received a text message from a Pakistani number, directing him to meet with a person named “Tony” and give him $100,000. The message also included the serial number for a dollar bill and Tony’s phone number. On June 5, Tony contacted the cooperating witness and instructed him to go to a location in Brooklyn, New York where he met Mehmood and handed him $100,000, per instructions from Tony, who spoke with the cooperating witness over the telephone during the meeting. Mehmood gave the cooperating witness a dollar bill with a serial number matching the information received in the text message.
Beginning in August 2007, the cooperating witness began discussing arrangements to conduct large-scale hawala transactions involving hand-to-hand transfers of cash in Pakistan and England. On September 18, 2007 the cooperating witness received a text message from an individual in Pakistan directing the cooperating witness to turn over $180,000 in U.S. currency to an associate in Maryland. The next day the cooperating witness received phone calls and messages from Mehmood and Ahmad Masood Malik, age 34, of New York, confirming arrangements to meet with the cooperating witness later that evening. The cooperating witness met with Mehmood and Malik that evening in Glen Burnie, Maryland and gave them $180,000. In return, the cooperating witness was given a $1 bill with a serial number matching the one provided in the text message from Pakistan. The cooperating witness told both men that the monies represented “heroin money” and that the bundles were wrapped in wrappers previously used for kilograms of heroin. Mehmood and Malik spoke about transferring additional sums of money for the cooperating witness, and they indicated that they would return within the next day or so to get more cash from the cooperating witness. Mehmood and Malik attempted to conceal the $180,000 in the vehicle they were driving. Both men were arrested shortly thereafter.
Co-defendants Malik and Adeel Sattar, also known as Ahmad Jamal, Laala and Adeel Rana, age 24, of Hollis, New York, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and were sentenced to 21 and 33 months in prison, respectively.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation for their investigative work. In addition, Mr. Rosenstein thanked our international partners, the Spanish National Police; Australian Federal Police; Dutch National Police; and Belgium Federal Police for their help. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York also provided assistance in this case.
Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Christine Manuelian, P. Michael Cunningham and Philip Jackson, who are prosecuting the case.