India- and New Jersey-Based Jeweler Charged with Multimillion-Dollar International Trade Fraud Scheme and Unlicensed Money Transmitting
NEWARK, N.J. – A citizen of Egypt who was extradited to the United States on wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges had his initial appearance in New Jersey federal court today, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Hatem Ghouneim, 35, is charged by indictment with three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Ghouneim was arrested in Spain on July 16, 2023, and extradited on Jan. 25, 2024, at the request of the United States. He had his initial appearance today, before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III in Newark federal court, pleaded not guilty, and was detained.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From January through December 2019, Ghouneim engaged in a scheme to defraud a technology company that operates a rideshare service. By creating fraudulent accounts and using stolen identities, Ghouneim induced the company to pay him referral fees for each new fraudulently created account. Ghouneim defrauded the company of hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral fees.
The wire fraud charges each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and the aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison. Any term of imprisonment on the aggravated identity theft charge must run consecutively to any other sentence imposed on the other counts. Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the indictment. He also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI Attaché’s Office in Spain for their assistance, as well as the government of Spain for their substantial assistance arresting and extraditing Ghouneim to the United States.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shontae D. Gray of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.