Pair found guilty of racketeer influenced corrupt organization conspiracy in federal court
Ten members of Elite Enterprise convicted, two at trial with eight pleading guilty to participating in a RICO conspiracy or related fraud counts for defrauding financial institutions and insurance companies across the country.
Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced today the convictions of the final two defendants after a two-week jury trial, in a corrupt business organization plot to deceive a myriad of financial institutions and insurance companies across the country resulting in a loss upwards of $1.6 million. Mahdi Khelifi, 25, and Hamza Dridi 28, both of Indianapolis, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit racketeer influenced and corrupt organization and interstate transportation of stolen property. Khelifi was also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
“We are pleased that the jury was able to see this scheme for what is was,” said Minkler. “Elite Enterprise profited because of a continuous and pervasive culture of corruption. With the conviction of the final members of this criminal group, we have sent a strong message: if your business model includes stealing from others, we stand ready to enforce federal law to close your doors and to move criminals from their offices to the Bureau of Prisons.”
Khelifi and Dridi worked and managed Elite Imports, LLC and Elite Car Imports, LLC, which were car dealerships operating in two primary locations, 4550 N. Keystone Avenue and 8102 Pendleton Pike. As part of the conspiracy, Elite would work with customers to help them secure loans in order to purchase Elite’s vehicles. If the customer qualified, the lenders provided money for vehicle purchases by customers who could not pay for the vehicle in cash. Khelifi and Dridi and other members of the Elite Enterprise deceived these lenders by submitting fraudulent documents and information, such as proof of income (paystubs, driver’s licenses, social security numbers, and dates of birth) and proof of residency (utility bills), among other things. Enterprise members created or obtained these fraudulent documents so that they could deceive the lenders. Many of the fraudulent documents showed that Elite customers worked at shell companies. The goal of the Elite Enterprise was make the prospective lender believe that the customer was credit-worthy, with appropriate income levels, employment status and valid state drivers’ licenses to obtain loans.
The second racketeering fraud scheme involved members of the conspiracy making false claims to insurance companies, reporting vehicles as stolen, when in fact they were not. The defendants and associates were then reimbursed by various insurance companies for the purported stolen vehicles. 11 vehicles and vehicle parts previously reported stolen to insurance companies and the police were located in a chop shop behind the Keystone location when federal agents raided the business in September 2015.
The third fraud scheme involved floor plan financing and money laundering.
The case was investigated through a collaborative partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Social Security, OIG, the Lawrence Police Department and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, with assistance provided by the Indiana Secretary of State, Auto Division, and the Indiana Attorney General Consumer Fraud Division.
"This type of fraud has a devastating impact on victims and the verdict sends a clear message that illegal business practices in the form of white collar crime won't be tolerated," said W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division. "The FBI and our law enforcement and regulatory partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who perpetrate these schemes and steal from hardworking Americans."
“The wheels of justice moved swiftly, as indicated by the jury’s quick verdict. The conviction of both defendants ensures two fraudsters will now be imprisoned for the crimes they committed against the American public,” said Detroit Division Inspector in Charge, Patricia Armstrong, U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Assistant United States Attorneys Cynthia J. Ridgeway and Kristina M. Korobov are prosecuting the case for the government and said Khelifi and Dridi could face up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
U. S. District Judge William T. Lawrence presided over the trial. No sentencing date has been set.
In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the office’s firm commitment to utilize and partner with law enforcement agencies to prosecute individuals engaged in large-scale fraud schemes. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan Section 5.1.