Seven Individuals Arrested in Connection With $7.5 Million Multi-State Paycheck Protection Program Scheme
BOSTON – A Belgian man was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for participating in an e-mail scam that used counterfeit cashier’s checks to defraud charities and law firms.
Aref Zokita Said, 37, of Belgium, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to 60 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,631,478. In October 2019, Said pleaded guilty to eight counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
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.
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. Attorney Kristen Kearney of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.