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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Belgian and Lebanese National Charged in Superseding Indictment with Wire Fraud and Money Laundering

Defendant holds an Illinois attorney’s license

BOSTON – A Belgian and Lebanese national holding an Illinois law license was charged in a superseding indictment today in connection with a fraud and money laundering scheme that defrauded victims in multiple states.

The superseding indictment added two counts of wire fraud against Hassan A. Abbas, 62. In January 2020, Abbas was indicted on one count of money laundering and two counts of unlawful monetary transactions.

According to the charging documents, between June 2017 and January of 2019, Abbas and others defrauded victims through a series of romance, business email compromise (BEC), and other scams designed to trick victims into wiring monies to bank accounts they controlled. A BEC scheme is a sophisticated fraud often targeting individuals and businesses involved in wire transfer payments. The fraud is carried out by compromising and/or “spoofing” legitimate business email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques, to cause victims to transfer funds to accounts controlled by the scammers. In romance scams, perpetrators generally create fictitious online personas to develop online romantic relationships with individuals in the U.S., and then leverage those relationships to obtain money and/or property. 

Abbas allegedly created sham corporate entities and opened bank accounts in the name of those entities. Under false pretenses, both individual and corporate victims were then instructed to wire funds into the accounts Abbas controlled. Some victims were in the process of buying homes and believed the funds were for that purpose. Others believed they were transferring funds on behalf of or for the benefit of their romantic partners. Corporate victims were targeted as part of the scheme as well and were deceived into remitting invoice payments to the accounts Abbas controlled. 

Shortly after receiving the victim funds, Abbas allegedly transferred the funds to overseas accounts, domestic personal accounts, or spent the funds on personal expenses.  

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of money laundering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $500,000, or twice the value of the criminally derived property. The charge of unlawful monetary transaction provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the value of the criminally derived property. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mackenzie A. Queenin and Philip A. Mallard of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated November 3, 2020