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Justice News

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Leader Of Multimillion-Dollar Bank Fraud Scheme Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 88 Months In Prison

Defendant And His Co-Conspirators Used Fake Companies, Phony Identification Documents, And Hundreds Of Counterfeit Checks To Withdraw More Than Two Million Dollars In Stolen Funds From More Than A Dozen Banks

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, today announced that MAHABUBUZ ZAMAN was sentenced today to 88 months in prison for his participation in an elaborate bank fraud scheme that yielded more than two million dollars in ill-gotten gains. ZAMAN had been found guilty on November 12, 2014, by a Manhattan jury of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit identification document fraud, and use of a false passport, after a two-week jury trial. ZAMAN was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan, who also presided over the jury trial.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Mahabubuz Zaman may have enjoyed the riches of this multimillion-dollar bank fraud scheme for years. But now, thanks to the hard work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and prosecutors, Zaman will be spending the next seven years in federal prison.”

According to the Superseding Indictment, other court documents, and the evidence introduced at trial:

From approximately 2008 through November 2012, ZAMAN and his co-conspirators allegedly engaged in a bank fraud scheme in which they created hundreds of counterfeit checks, deposited those counterfeit checks into bank accounts they had opened in the names of sham companies in order to fraudulently inflate the balances in those accounts, and then withdrew funds from those bank accounts before the financial institutions were able to determine the fraudulent nature of the checks. In addition to the check fraud, the defendant and his partners-in-crime also obtained fraudulent mortgages and ran up credit card debt using false identities. The scheme victimized approximately 15 different banks, resulting in more than two million dollars in losses to the banks.

As part of the scheme, the conspirators incorporated sham companies and then opened bank accounts in the names of those sham companies. The individuals opening the accounts (the “accountholders”) often used false identities, including names and social security numbers, and presented false identification documents, including false Bangladeshi passports and forged United States visas. The accountholders were generally instructed to make small legitimate deposits at first so that the banks would make funds immediately available upon future fraudulent deposits.

ZAMAN and his co-conspirators obtained copies of legitimate checks and then used the payor account information that appeared on those checks to create counterfeit checks made payable to the sham companies they had incorporated as part of the scheme. The accountholders deposited the counterfeit checks into the sham company bank accounts at various banks. The accountholders often made deposits at numerous branches of the same bank on the same day. These deposits often were made on a Thursday or Friday so that the defendant and his co-conspirators could withdraw the illegal proceeds over the weekend when the banks were closed and were less likely to determine that the checks were counterfeit.

Once the defendant and his co-conspirators confirmed that funds from the counterfeit checks were available for withdrawal, the accountholders were directed to withdraw the funds from the counterfeit checks, typically over the weekend. The defendant and his co-conspirators often withdrew the funds from global cash access machines at casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which did not have daily withdrawal limits. The accountholders often used false identification documents, including false Bangladeshi passports and fake United States visas, when making the withdrawals.

ZAMAN was one of the leaders of the scheme who recruited accountholders and directed both accountholders and higher-ranking members of the crew in the scheme’s operations, fronting the money for the scheme’s expenses and collecting a large share of its profits. In addition, ZAMAN was primarily responsible for the crew’s fraudulent mortgage operations.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Nathan sentenced ZAMAN to three years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay restitution and forfeiture in the amount of $2,638,700, and a $300 special assessment.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the investigative work of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. He also thanked United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Queens County District Attorney’s office, the New Jersey State Police, the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, and the United States Secret Service for their assistance in the matter.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Lisa Korologos and Alexander Wilson are in charge of the prosecution.

Press Release Number: 
Updated May 13, 2015