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Press Release

Smithfield Resident Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering and Harboring a Fugitive

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia
Defendant aided his brother after he fled the country

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Danish Syed, 19, of Smithfield, Va., pleaded guilty today to Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering and Harboring a Fugitive.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Washington, D.C., Field Office; and John S. Adams, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s, Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson.

Danish Syed was indicted by a federal grand jury on December 24, 2014. Syed faces a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering and ten years in prison for harboring a fugitive. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

According to the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Danish Syed is the half-brother of Mehdi Syed, who was charged, in March, 2014, with an account take over and identity theft scheme. As alleged in the indictment, Mehdi, under the guise of a legitimate company sought to obtain thousands of dollars from customers of SunTrust Bank by fraudulently transferring funds from individual accounts to nominee checking accounts established by Mehdi in the names of aliases and purported business entities.  In April, 2014, Mehdi was located in North Carolina and agreed to surrender to authorities. Mehdi relocated his family from North Carolina to Smithfield, Virginia; the home of his mother, his step-father and his half-brother, Danish. After Mehdi failed to turn himself in, authorities interviewed his family members and they each claimed they did not know his whereabouts. The next day Mehdi’s mother, “NS,” contacted authorities and admitted they had lied to the FBI and that they did know Mehdi’s location as Danish Syed drove Mehdi to a hotel on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  Mehdi was arrested and on May 28, 2014 was released on bond and electronic monitoring. In June, 2014, Mehdi opened several bank accounts with FirstView in the names of aliases. On July 9, 2014 Mehdi’s electronic monitoring bracelet was located in a wooded area off of Mercury Blvd. in Hampton, Virginia, and on the same day a warrant was issued for his arrest.

One of the customers whose account was fraudulently accessed was “DS.”  Beginning in August, 2014 Mehdi caused “DS’s” account to be accessed without his permission. Through third party payroll services thousands of dollars were transferred out of “DS’s” account and into the FirstView accounts Mehdi had created while on pre-trial release. FirstView closed several of the accounts they suspected were opened on suspicion of fraud and the funds were mailed to the address on record; Danish Syed’s home in Smithfield. Thereafter Danish Syed communicated with Mehdi Syed about the funds.  On or about October 14, 2014 through October 16, 2014, Danish Syed deposited the FirstView checks,  which represented fraudulent funds, into an account accessible by Mehdi. From October 15, 2014 through October 30, 2014 Mehdi withdrew nearly all of the funds that Danish had deposited into the account from ATM machines located in Lahore, Pakistan.

This case was investigated by IRS-CI and FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian J. Samuels and Kaitlin Gratton are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:14CR72.

Updated March 24, 2015