You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 12, 2021

Queens Man Charged with Referral-Fee Fraud on Ride Sharing Business

NEWARK, N.J. – A Queens man has been charged with using hundreds of stolen and false identities to defraud a ride sharing business of over $500,000 in delivery driver referral benefits, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.

Hatem Ghouneim, 32, of Astoria, New York, was charged Feb. 11, 2021, by indictment with three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.      

According to documents filed in this case:

Corporate Victim 1 was a technology company headquartered in San Francisco, California, that allowed users to order food from restaurants and have it delivered by eligible delivery carriers. To grow its platform, Corporate Victim 1 employed referral promotions. Individuals participating in the referral program could earn money by inviting new delivery carriers who met Corporate Victim 1’s criteria and who completed the actions required by the specific referral program.    

Throughout 2019, Ghouneim engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain delivery carrier referral fees from Corporate Victim 1. He created fraudulent delivery carrier accounts with Corporate Victim 1, using hundreds of stolen and false identities, to induce Corporate Victim 1 to pay referral fees for each new fake account. Ghouneim defrauded Corporate Victim 1 of over $500,000 in referral fees. 

The wire fraud counts carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aggravated identity theft count carries a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charge. 

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
21-059
Updated February 12, 2021