Belgian National Pleads Guilty to Scam Targeting Charities and Law Firms
BOSTON – A Belgian man pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston to charges that he participated in an e-mail scam that used counterfeit cashier’s checks to defraud charities and law firms.
Aref Zokita Said, 37, of Belgium, pleaded guilty to eight counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Jan. 10, 2019.
Beginning no later than August 2013, Said and his co-conspirators defrauded law firms and non-profits, including charities, by sending them fraudulent cashier’s checks and convincing them to wire money to members of the scheme, with the false assurance that the fake checks would cover the expense. Once the checks were discovered to be fraudulent—after the victims’ bank accounts were debited—the victims were left with thousands of dollars in losses, having unwittingly forwarded their own money to a member of the conspiracy.
The charging statutes provides a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss involved in the scam, and restitution. 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; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Joseph W. Cronin, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen Kearney and Brian A. Pérez-Daple of Lelling’s Criminal Division prosecuted the case.