Israeli Man Sentenced to Prison Term for His Role in Conspiracy to Operate an Unlicensed Money Transmitting Business
WASHINGTON – Yossi Avitan, a resident and citizen of Israel, has been sentenced to a five-month term of imprisonment for taking part in an international conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Sally Luttrell, Acting Assistant Inspector General for Investigations of the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Avitan, 33, pled guilty in November 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. He was sentenced on March 19, 2019 by the Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. In addition to the period of incarceration, Avitan was ordered to pay a fine of $4,000, and a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $9,178.
An unlicensed money transmitting business, broadly defined, is a business involved in the transfer of money or funds affecting interstate or foreign commerce in any manner, which is either operated without an appropriate money transmitting license from the District of Columbia or without complying with federal money transmitting business registration requirements. Avitan was one of seven co-defendants charged in relation to the conspiracy. Four of the co-defendants were arrested as part of a large international takedown in which 19 individuals, who were indicted in four separate cases involving allegations of fraud and money laundering activities, were arrested world-wide in early March 2017.
Four of Avitan’s co-defendants -- Itzhak Salama, Golan Chkechkov, Moshe Amir, and Haviv Arazi -- have pled guilty to charges relating to the illegal money transmitting business and are awaiting sentencing. One co-defendant, Michael Admon, was sentenced on Feb. 19, 2019, for a charge of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business to a two-year term of probation, which included Admon’s residence in a reentry center for a term of 30 days and location monitoring for a period of five months. The remaining co-defendant, Ori Saadon, was extradited from Israel on or about February 7, 2019, after an earlier request was made by the United States for Saadon’s temporary surrender to the United States in order for Saadon to face the conspiracy charge in this matter. Saadon’s case is pending before the Court.
According to the statement of offense proffered during the plea hearing, Avitan was part of an illegal international money transmitting network, commonly referred to as a “hawala network,” which clandestinely moved money for other individuals in interstate and foreign commerce without registering with the U.S. Department of the Treasury or obtaining licensure with the various States, including the District of Columbia. Avitan did not obtain licensure or register himself or any business as a licensed money transmitter pursuant to the laws of the District of Columbia and federal law. The FBI conducted undercover operations in which Avitan was responsible for coordinating the transfer of more than $95,000, but less than $150,000 of funds, in three separate transactions through a hawala network. Avitan’s role in the hawala network was to arrange for the receipt and/or delivery of money on behalf of other individuals and Avitan received a fee for conducting the monetary transactions.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Liu, Assistant Director in Charge McNamara, and Acting Assistant Inspector General Luttrell commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. They acknowledged the efforts of those who are handling the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including Paralegal Specialists Brittany Phillips, Elizabeth Swienc, and C. Rosalind Pressley, Supervisory Paralegal Specialist Tasha Harris, and Litigation Technology Specialist Jeanie Latimore-Brown.
Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane Lucas, Michael J. Marando and David Kent, of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, who prosecuted the case. Assistance in the investigation and prosecution was also provided by former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Atkinson and David Last.