TRENTON, N.J. – Two Michigan men and an Ohio man were sentenced for their roles in a large-scale conspiracy to commit bank fraud in several states, including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Syed Abbas, 33, of Westerville, Ohio, was sentenced by videoconference on Jan. 19, 2023, to 16 months in prison. Rana Sharif, 39, of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, and Awaise Dar, 35, of Woodbridge, Virginia, were sentenced by videoconference on Jan. 16, 2023 and Jan. 17, 2023, respectively, to 20 months each in prison. All three individuals previously pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson to informations that charged them with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Judge Wolfson imposed the sentences.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From 2018 through April 2020, Abbas, Sharif, Dar, and others conspired to defraud several major banks and electronic merchant processors. The defendants established bank accounts associated with sham entities that had no legitimate purpose and then issued checks payable to other shell companies associated with the criminal organization, knowing that the payor accounts had insufficient funds. The conspirators also conducted numerous fraudulent credit card and debit card transactions between shell companies to credit payee accounts and fraudulently overdraw payor accounts. Members of the conspiracy also used these shell companies 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.
The conspirators withdrew the “existing” 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. Because the conspirators 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.
Law enforcement officials identified approximately 200 bank accounts and 75 merchant credit card processing accounts used to facilitate the conspiracy’s fraudulent schemes. The conspirators’ unlawful activities attempted to cause a $10 million loss on financial institutions and did in fact cause a loss of approximately $3.5 million.
In addition to the prison term, Chief Judge Wolfson sentenced each defendant to three years of supervised release. Chief Judge Wolfson also ordered each defendant to pay restitution. Abbas was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $530,523. Sharif was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2.38 million. Dar was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2.42 million.
Abbas, Sharif, and Dar are among the nine individuals that have been sentenced in the District of New Jersey as part of the criminal scheme
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Raimundo Marrero, Philadelphia Division; the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel in Newark; Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Sharon MacDermott; and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins, with the investigation leading to the sentencings.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Mateo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit in Newark.