Israeli-Moroccan Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge in International Business E-Mail Compromise Scheme
Fraud Scam Defrauded Companies of Millions of Dollars
WASHINGTON – Harry Meir Mimoun Amar, a resident and citizen of Israel and Morocco, pled guilty today to taking part in an international conspiracy to trick mid-level corporate employees into wiring millions of dollars to bank accounts under the control of those in the criminal enterprise.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Amar, 39, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Amar has agreed to pay $273,321 in restitution and $49,503 in a forfeiture money judgment. Amar will be subject to deportation proceedings. The Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly set a sentencing hearing in the case for Aug. 16, 2018.
Amar was among 17 people arrested in early 2017 following a multi-year investigative effort by federal and international law enforcement agencies to target multimillion-dollar fraud and money laundering schemes perpetrated by a transnational organized crime network. Amar was arrested on March 1, 2017 in Israel and consented to his extradition to the United States. He has remained in custody since his arrest.
Amar was charged along with three others arrested last year with participating in one particular fraud scheme, which is known as a business e-mail compromise, or “BEC” scheme. The cases against the other three individuals remain pending.
According to a statement of offense submitted at today’s plea hearing, Amar and others used the Internet and primarily U.S.-based electronic communications to target mid-sized and large companies and impersonate executive-level employees in e-mail communications with mid-level employees. These mid-level employees were led to believe they were being entrusted to handle a large financial transaction, such as a “secret” corporate acquisition. The employees were instructed to initiate wire transfers from the company’s corporate bank accounts to bank accounts controlled by members of the criminal enterprise. Once the funds were transferred, the money was quickly wire transferred out of the reach of the target corporation into accounts located in the People’s Republic of China and elsewhere, with the funds ultimately being delivered to co-conspirators located in Europe and elsewhere.
In his guilty plea, Amar admitted taking part in the scheme from approximately January 2014 until August 2014, working with co-conspirators who were operating in other countries, including Turkey and Bulgaria. The statement of offense ties Amar to false representations made to four companies from Germany, Spain, Finland and Portugal. According to the statement of offense, the scheme generated $1,093,557 in U.S. dollars. Amar personally received $49,503 of the proceeds.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu and Assistant Director in Charge McNamara commended the work of those who are investigating the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Israeli National Police, the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior, Main Directorate Border Police, and Sofia Interpol. 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 and Elizabeth Swienc, former Paralegal Specialist Christopher Toms, and Litigation Technology Specialist Jeanie Latimore-Brown.
Finally, they commended the work of former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Atkinson and David Last, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Lucas, of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys 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.