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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Maryland Man Sentenced to Prison and Home Detention on Fraud Conspiracy Charge for Stealing Over $1.3 Million

Fraud Scheme Defrauded Companies and Individuals From Around the World

            WASHINGTON – Mark L. Lezell, 74, of Rockville, Md., has been sentenced to 12 months in prison and 12 months of home detention for his role in a fraud conspiracy targeting companies and individuals from across the United States and around the world.

            The announcement was made today by Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Robert Bornstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, and Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Washington DC Field Office.

            Lezell pled guilty in June 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia,  to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of failure to file a tax return. He was sentenced on July 28, 2021, by the Honorable Richard J. Leon. In addition to his prison term, the Court ordered Lezell to pay restitution in the amount $1,787,678 as well as a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $651,955.  Following his prison term, he will be placed on 36 months of supervised release, 12 months of which will be on home detention.

            According to the government’s evidence, beginning in or about 2009, and continuing through at least 2012, Lezell and his co-conspirator, Issam Abu-Ghosh, conducted a scheme to defraud individuals, companies, and other types of entities, to obtain money.  The scheme was conducted in a similar manner for many of the victims.  In nearly every instance, Abu-Ghosh represented to the victims that Abu-Ghosh, through his solely-owned company, could obtain a loan for the victims through various connections that he maintained. The loans needed by the victims were often for millions of dollars and to fund large projects.  Prior to soliciting potential lenders, Abu-Ghosh required that each victim provide a good faith deposit to be held in escrow to show the victim’s good intentions toward obtaining the loan. The good faith deposits ranged from $15,000 to $250,000.

            Lezell, an attorney, acted as the escrow agent for the good faith deposits.  Once an agreement was reached between the victim and Abu-Ghosh, the terms and conditions were memorialized in a loan commitment contract.  The loan commitment included an escrow agreement, which identified Lezell as the escrow agent and provided conditions under which the escrow agreement would operate, including the transfer of the good faith deposit to a bank account held by Lezell.  In most cases, the escrow agreement required that Lezell hold the money with the understanding that the funds would be returned to the victim if Abu-Ghosh failed to identify and provide a lender.  Once the victim wired the good faith deposit to the escrow account, most of that money was transferred to Abu-Ghosh within days.

            Lezell obtained over $1,653,955 in good faith deposits into his account.  No loans were ever obtained by Abu-Ghosh.  Instead, the good faith deposits were used by Abu-Ghosh and Lezell for their personal benefit or to further the scheme. Lezell also admitted that he did not file a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service for the tax year 2008, despite receiving a gross income of approximately $350,073.02.

            Abu-Ghosh, 63, of Leesburg, Va., plead guilty in September 2018 and was sentenced in January 2020 to 60 months of incarceration, followed by 60 months of supervised release, an order to pay restitution in the amount of $1,358,980, as well as a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $952,000.

            In announcing the sentence, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillips, Acting Special Agent in Charge Bornstein, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Waldron commended the work performed by those who investigated the case from the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane Lucas and Michelle A. Zamarin, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marando, who prosecuted the case.

Financial Fraud
Updated July 29, 2021