Former Executive Director Convicted of Stealing Nearly One Million Dollars from Long Island Charity
Defendant Concealed Payments to Herself for Personal Use, Including Vacations, the Purchase of Her Residence, Broadway Tickets, Cosmetic Surgeries and Spa Treatments
Wafa Abboud, the former Executive Director of Human First, a not-for-profit organization based in Nassau County, New York, that provides services to developmentally disabled individuals, was convicted today by a federal jury in Brooklyn of all counts of a superseding indictment charging her with embezzling funds, bank fraud and money laundering. The verdict followed a two-week trial before United States District Judge Edward R. Korman. When sentenced, Abboud faces up to 30 years’ imprisonment.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the verdict.
“With today’s verdict, Abboud has been held accountable for abusing her position of trust as the Executive Director of a charity and funding her elaborate lifestyle with money intended to serve the needs of vulnerable individuals in the community,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, the New York State Office of the Attorney General and the New York State Office of the Inspector General for their work on the case.
From January 2011 until she was terminated on May 27, 2016, Abboud was Human First’s Executive Director and authorized the disbursement of all of the charity’s funds. Between May 2011 and February 2016, Abboud caused Human First to issue approximately $16,000 a month in purported consultant fees to MPB Management Services LLC (MPB), a company controlled by co-conspirator Marcelle Bailey. Every month, Abboud wrote two checks payable to MPB, each for $8,000, and deposited one of the checks into bank accounts in MPB’s name that Abboud controlled. In total, Abboud diverted $420,000 of Human First funds into the accounts and used the embezzled funds to pay for her personal expenses, including a trip to Disneyland in California, tickets to the Broadway show “Newsies,” visits to luxury spas and high-end beauty salons, cosmetic surgeries and international wire transfers. Abboud also withdrew nearly $120,000 in cash from the accounts.
Abboud also embezzled more than $440,000 from Human First with her co-conspirator Rami Taha, another consultant who Abboud hired to work at Human First. In furtherance of this scheme, the defendant approved inflated construction invoices that were submitted to Human First by Taha. Abboud issued Human First checks to companies controlled by Taha, who in turn diverted the embezzled funds back to Abboud. Abboud used the funds toward the down payment for her residence and to pay for extensive renovations to the residence. When Abboud’s mortgage lender asked her about the source of the funds, Abboud, to conceal the embezzlement, falsely represented to the lender that the funds were part of a settlement payment that she had received for damage to her prior residence. The evidence at trial also established that the defendant awarded herself an annual salary increase to $479,000, without obtaining the required approval from Human First’s Board of Directors, in order to obtain the mortgage loan.
Bailey pleaded guilty in December 2017 to embezzling funds and bank fraud, and Taha pleaded guilty in May 2019 to embezzling funds. A fourth defendant, Arkadiusz Swiechowicz, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in September 2018. They are awaiting sentencing.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Robert Polemeni and F. Turner Buford are in charge of the prosecution.
Merrick, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-396 (ERK)