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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 23, 2020

Belgian National Holding Illinois Attorney’s License Indicted for Money Laundering

BOSTON – A Belgian national holding an Illinois law license has been indicted on money laundering charges involving funds obtained from three Massachusetts victims.

Hassan A. Abbas, 62, of Belgium, was indicted on one count of money laundering and two counts of unlawful monetary transactions. Following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston yesterday, Abbas was detained pending a detention hearing set for Jan. 24, 2020.

According to the charging documents, between July 2017 and December 2018, Abbas created sham corporate entities and opened bank accounts in the name of those entities. Those bank accounts were used to receive fraudulently obtained funds from a number of victims. Two Massachusetts victims were victimized through a business email compromise (BEC) scam in which the victims were tricked into wiring money to an individual they thought was their real estate broker.  A BEC scheme is a sophisticated scam 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. The third Massachusetts victim was allegedly the victim of a romance scam, in which perpetrators 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.  

Once the fraudulently obtained funds reached the accounts controlled by Abbas, Abbas initiated wire transfers to accounts overseas, and transferred other sums of the fraudulently obtained money to his own personal accounts, which he then spent.  

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. Valuable assistance was provided by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip A. Mallard and Mackenzie A. Queenin 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): 
Cyber Crime
Component(s): 
Updated January 23, 2020