Fourteen Charged with Operating an Unlicensed Money Remitting Business and Engaging in an Extortionate Loan Scheme
More than $5 Million Smuggled to Yemen
An indictment was unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn charging 14 defendants with operating an unlicensed money remitting business that smuggled over $5 million to Yemen, and a scheme to collect extensions of credit using extortionate means targeting members of the Yemeni expatriate community residing in the greater New York City area.1 The defendants arrested in New York today will be arraigned this afternoon by United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano.
The indictment and arrests were announced by ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, MARTIN D. FICKE, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, New York (“ICE”) and MARK J. MERSHON, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and is the culmination of a three-year investigation that included approximately 180 days of court-authorized wire-tapping of four of the defendants’ telephones.
In the first scheme, NEIL KRAMER, ISADORE USEROWITZ, HAROLD WEISBERG, HAMAD ALI, SADEK MAHDI, HAMOOD ZOKARI, NAGEEB ALDAYLAM and MOHSEN HUDYIH are charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. ALDAYLAM, ALI, MAHDI and ZOKARI, Yemeni expatriates, collected money from other Yemeni expatriates for shipment to known money-remitters in Yemen. These four defendants gave the cash to NEIL KRAMER and MICHAEL WEISBERG, attorneys licensed to practice law in New York, and ISADORE USEROWITZ, a real estate broker, who drew down checks in corresponding amounts from their professional checking accounts. ALDAYLAM, ALI, MAHDI and ZOKARI, with the assistance of MOHAMMED ALGAHIM, HAMOOD ALHUDAIS, SALEM AL-MERDAI, ABDO ALWASIA, MOHSEN HUDYIH and FATEH NAGI SALEH, then arranged for couriers traveling to Yemen to smuggle the checks out of the United States, without filing the currency transaction reports with the United States government as required by law. In this manner, between March 2003 through July 2005, the defendants smuggled approximately $5,053,965 to Yemen.
In the second scheme, which operated during the same time period, KRAMER, ALI, MAHDI, ZOKARI and ABDULLAH ALHABABI are charged with using extortionate means to collect extensions of credit. ALI, MAHDI, ZOKARI and ALHABABI introduced Yemeni expatriates in need of cash to NEIL KRAMER, who provided the loans ranging in amounts from $5,000 to $100,000. In return, the borrowers were required to sign “confessions of judgments,” which left blank the amount of the loan, the terms of the loan, and the due date – all to be filled in at a later time by the defendants. In some instances, the debtors were required to surrender the leases to their businesses, as well as their travel documents, such as Immigration and Naturalization Service Permanent Resident Alien Cards (“green cards”) and passports, until their debts were paid in full.
On March 27, 2006, federal agents executed a search warrant at the residence of NEIL KRAMER and seized $67,000 in cash, numerous identity and travel documents withheld from debtors, and a phony New York City Marshal’s stamp. Earlier today, federal agents searched a safe deposit box belonging to KRAMER and seized approximately $500,000 in cash.
“The government’s ability to track the flow of money into and out of the United States is vital to our national security,” stated United States Attorney MAUSKOPF. “This case is particularly troubling because it involves attorneys who violated their oaths and positions of trust for their own financial gain.” Ms. MAUSKOPF thanked the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey, the City of Newburgh Police Department, the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General and the Queens County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in this investigation.
ICE Special Agent-in-Charge FICKE stated “The illicit flow of more than $5 million out of the United States to Yemen identifies a serious vulnerability exploited by criminal elements motivated by profit and greed. Our goal at ICE is to identify such vulnerabilities and close them to criminals and others who seek to raise illicit funds.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge MERSHON stated “This case is a great example of law enforcement joining forces to aggressively pursue those who try to use our financial system to conceal and transfer illicit funds. The FBI remains committed to safeguarding the integrity of America’s financial system against exploitation by criminal organizations.”
If convicted of using extortionate means to collect extensions of credit, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years incarceration and a fine of $250,000. If convicted of evading the international monetary shipment reporting requirement, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 10 years incarceration and a fine equal to twice the amount smuggled. If convicted of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years incarceration and a fine of $250,000. In addition, the indictment seeks forfeiture judgment against the defendants in the amount of $7 million dollars. The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lawrence P. Ferazani, Jr. and Brendan King.
Neil S. Kramer
Isadore A. Userowitz, also known as “Arthur Userowitz”
Hamad Ali, also known as “Ahmed Jeran”
Mohammed Algahim, also known as “Mohamed Kaid”
Fateh Nagi Saleh
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