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Press Release

Multimillion-dollar unlicensed money transmitter convicted

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – A federal jury has returned a guilty verdict against an Iraqi citizen who resided in Richmond for operating a money transmitting business without a license, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

The jury deliberated for less than one hour before finding Sameer Sami Rasheed Al Salman, 55, guilty on one count of unlicensed money remitting following a two-day trial.

During the trial, the jury heard evidence about Salman’s money transmitting business, which he operated at his residence in Richmond. Since 2020, Salman transferred and wired millions of dollars from bank accounts in the United States to ones all over the world including China, Indonesia and India. 

The jury heard testimony about how Salman offered his services locally and performed informal hawala transactions, a method of transferring money without using the banking system. Salman conducted these transfers which amounted to thousands of dollars from his driveway and required individuals to show their identification. Many transfers originated from Iraq and some transfers were up to $40,000. 

Authorities identified Salman’s illegal money transmitting operation after extensive surveillance and conducted a search of his residence. At that time, they discovered over $282,000 in cash stored within the house. 

At the trial, the defense attempted to convince the jury Salman had lawful authority to operate a money transfer business in Iraq. The jury did not believe those claims and found him guilty as charged.

“Money flowed from Iraq through Houston thanks to Rasheed Al Salman’s illegal money transmitting business, a business he conducted from his home’s driveway and without a license,” said Hamdani. “Hawala operators like Salman pose a real threat to banking systems because they undermine the oversight and regulation of significant money transfers - transfers that when unregulated, often end up in the coffers of international criminal organizations.”

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake presided over the trial and set sentencing for Aug. 16. At that time, Salman faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. 

FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather Winter and Steven Schammel are prosecuting the case. 

Updated April 23, 2024

Financial Fraud