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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, September 16, 2016

Sudanese Man Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 7 Years In Prison For Bank Fraud, Credit Card Fraud, And Identity Theft Schemes Exceeding $3 Million

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ASHRAF LAKOU was sentenced to seven years in prison for bank fraud, credit card fraud, passport fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges in connection with orchestrating a scheme to use stolen victim identification information to make fraudulent credit card purchases and to defraud financial institutions by depositing counterfeit checks into accounts controlled by LAKOU and his co-conspirators.  Through these schemes, LAKOU and his co-conspirators attempted to defraud individuals, businesses, and financial institutions out of more than $3 million.  On April 12, 2016, LAKOU pled guilty before United States Magistrate Judge James L. Cott.  United States District Judge Victor Marrero imposed today’s sentence.  

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Ashraf Lakou engaged in all means of fraud, from bank and credit card fraud to identity theft and passport fraud.  Today, Lakou received a significant sentence matching the seriousness of his crimes.”

According to the criminal complaint, indictment, and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, as well as statements made at related court proceedings:

From September 2013 through July 2015, LAKOU and his co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to defraud businesses and financial institutions by obtaining checks made out to legitimate businesses, opening fraudulent bank accounts in the names of the victim businesses, depositing the checks into the fraudulent accounts, and withdrawing funds from the fraudulent accounts.  LAKOU and his co-conspirators carried out this scheme by, among other means, stealing checks from the mail, submitting false documentation in connection with bank account applications, and forging the signatures of other actual persons.

From May 2014 through July 2015, LAKOU and his co-conspirators also engaged in a scheme to commit credit card fraud by using stolen credit card information to make fraudulent purchases of jewelry and other merchandise.  LAKOU and his co-conspirators carried out this credit card fraud scheme by, among other means, adding their own names as authorized users of pre-existing victim credit cards without the knowledge or consent of the victims and by submitting fraudulent applications for new credit card accounts in the names and identities of their victims.     

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In addition to the prison term, LAKOU, 27, of Manhattan, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $557,894.50 in restitution, $557,894.50 in forfeiture, and a $600 special assessment. 

Zoheb Qamran, 29, of Manhattan, and Jessica Hattar, 26, of Manhattan, have been separately charged in connection with the bank fraud and credit card fraud schemes.  On May 19, 2016, Qamran pled guilty to credit card fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges before United States Magistrate Judge Barbara C. Moses.  On May 6, 2016, Hattar pled guilty to credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft charges before United States Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, in the investigation.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Cohen is in charge of the prosecution.

 

 

 

 

 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
16-248
Updated September 16, 2016