By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Awaise Dar, 32, and Shamsher Farooq, 26, both of Dearborn and Rana Sharif, 36, of Dearborn Heights were charged in connection with a $3.5 million multi-state bank fraud conspiracy, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey news release.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said July 6 that the seven people charged allegedly had roles in a large-scale conspiracy to commit bank fraud in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia over the course of two years.
Federal charges were listed as conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in connection with a fraudulent scheme that used hundreds of fraudulent accounts to defraud several major banks causing losses of over $3.5 million.
Along with Dar, Habib Majid, 34, of North Brunswick, N.J.; Naveed Arif, 42, of Port Reading, N.J.; Ali Abbas, 38, of Carteret, N.J.; and Erm Ayaz, 36, of Bayside, N.Y., were charged and arrested.
Farooq and Sharif have not been arrested and are still at large.
“Today’s arrests of five of the defendants were made in coordination with two other federal investigations conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of Maryland, which led to the filing of separate criminal complaints, also unsealed today, that charged five defendants in the Eastern District of Virginia and two defendants in the District of Maryland,” the news release said.
From 2018 to April 2020, the defendants conspired with each other and others to defraud several major banks and electronic merchant processors, according to documents and statements made in court.
In order to do so, they established bank accounts associated with sham entities that had no legitimate purpose, and thereafter would issue checks payable to other sham entities associated with the criminal organization, knowing that the accounts on which the checks were drawn contained insufficient funds, the news release said.
The defendants also conducted numerous fraudulent credit card and debt card transactions between shell companies to fraudulently credit payee accounts and fraudulently overdraw payor accounts. Those same shell companies were used by the defendants to execute temporary refund credits, commonly referred to as charge-backs, to checking accounts associated with the criminal organization, where no prior legitimate transaction had occurred.
“In each one of these instances, members of the criminal organization withdrew the funds (through ATMs or bank tellers) that banks and/or merchant processors had credited to the payee bank accounts at the time of the fraudulent transaction,” according to the news release. “Because the defendants withdrew the credited funds from the payee accounts before the banks could recognize the fraudulent transactions, the banks and merchant processors were left with substantial losses.”
An investigation identified approximately 200 bank accounts and 75 merchant credit card processing accounts used to facilitate the schemes.
The defendants’ actions and scheme resulted in a loss to banks merchant processing companies of at least $3.5 million. If convicted, the bank fraud conspiracy count carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million.
Homeland Security Investigations — Michigan Division and U.S. Postal Inspection Service Detroit Division Acting Inspector in Charge Felicia George were acknowledged by Carpenito for their work with the investigation.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, the news release said.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])