November 28, 2022

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Lawyer sentenced for role in romance, real estate scheme | News

MARBLEHEAD — An Illinois lawyer with ties to Belgium and Lebanon was sentenced to 9 several years in prison Friday for his position in a romance scam that swindled victims around the region, such as a Marblehead woman, out of huge amounts of cash.

Pursuing his release from that jail term, Hassan Abbas, 55, will have to spend 3 years on supervised launch and need to forfeit far more than $2 million to shell out restitution, U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin ruled on Friday. He also faces deportation.

Abbas was found guilty by a jury in Could of revenue laundering, conspiracy to commit dollars laundering, wire fraud and unlawful financial transactions.

The victims integrated women who considered they were being sending money to a intimate partner to commence a organization, and some serious estate purchasers and brokers who had been conned into wiring cash for real estate transactions to an account controlled by Abbas. A person Framingham few, immigrants from Brazil, lost the $30,000 they had saved for a down payment on their household.

Prosecutors explained the moment Abbas been given the funds he saved a part for himself, which he invested on worldwide travel and luxury goods, and forwarded the relaxation to accomplices abroad.

Domestically, the scenario began with a girl in Marblehead who achieved a person contacting himself “James Deere” on a dating web page. The male confident the target that he desired her enable to keep commission funds in a bank account though he ready to start off his very own expenditure firm in Massachusetts. By the time a close friend persuaded her that she experienced fallen target to a fraud, she’d currently wired more than $200,000 to various people today to include purported taxes and costs. She turned to retired Marblehead police main James Carney, who was doing work as an investigator for the Essex District Attorney’s office environment at the time. Carney was equipped to understand that federal investigators ended up on the lookout into related strategies all over the nation.

They eventually learned the electronic mail account for “James Deere” was positioned in Nigeria. Prosecutors consider the individual posing as James Deere was an affiliate of Abbas.

The 9-12 months sentence was what prosecutors Mackenzie Queenan and David Holcomb requested.

“From at minimum 2017 by means of 2019, Hassan Abbas exploited his regulation diploma, peddled falsehoods about enterprise dealings, and invoked the legal professional-customer privilege — most likely the most sacred theory governing the legal occupation — for his individual obtain,” they wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “The proof at trial founded that Abbas was adept at moving filthy cash and concealing his prison involvement.”

“Cloaked in the deference afforded to him primarily based on his status as an legal professional, Abbas gained revenue from unwitting victims, took a lower for himself, moved income abroad, and tried to dupe the monetary establishments who questioned queries to avoid receiving caught,” they continued.

The prosecution argued that Abbas continues to be “strident” in his failure to acknowledge accountability and insists he played only a negligible job. They argued that in fact, Abbas played a crucial purpose by overseeing accounts in the United States that established a fake perception of safety in victims who if not might have hesitated to send out money out of the nation.

Abbas remains actively accredited as an attorney in Illinois, in accordance to the Lawyer Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Courtroom of Illinois.

Even so, his lawyers, Michael DiStefano and Howard Cooper, explained to the decide in a sentencing memorandum that Abbas will by no means be able to observe regulation again following his launch, because of to the simple fact that he will be removed from the United States.

They questioned Sorokin to impose a sentence of time served, the 7 months Abbas was held in custody in between the jury’s verdict and his sentencing final week. They also questioned the choose to consider the influence of pretrial problems, which includes a requirement that he use a GPS and keep on being in Massachusetts — where by he has no ties — had on their consumer.

“What the court docket read about Mr. Abbas at demo is a small portion of who he is, exactly where he will come from, and the broad repercussions he has experienced and will undergo from his arrest and conviction, all of which he asks the court docket to just take into thing to consider in sentencing him,” his legal professionals instructed the decide in a sentencing memorandum.

They also submitted letters from his family members in Lebanon and the United States, describing the considerable cultural part Abbas experienced in caring for his getting old mothers and fathers.

“Mr. Abbas, and his extended household, were highly regarded in the group,” they wrote. “Mr. Abbas himself was recognized to befriend homeless avenue little ones with whom he and his dog would consistently visit and undertake pleasurable routines.”

Abbas, they reported, was born in Sierra Leone and grew up all above Europe, where by he attended a Swiss boarding university, and the Center East, just before coming to the United States to go to UCLA and then DePaul College Higher education of Legislation.

They also cited the “gullibility and naïveté” on the part of Abbas, who took no techniques to hide his id, and in comparison him to a person serving as an accessory.

Prosecutors disagreed, indicating in their sentencing memorandum that Abbas knew the scheme was unlawful.

Next sentencing, U.S. Legal professional Rachael Rollins claimed in a assertion that Abbas “abused his legislation degree in furtherance of a scheme that stole hundreds of thousands of pounds from innocent victims throughout the nation. All of Mr. Abbas’s lies and schemes have eventually caught up with him. He was an equal chance scammer. Regardless of whether it was a faux romance or a bogus authentic estate offer, he took gain of victims by laundering their tough-acquired income. He will now have 9 years to recognize the error of his approaches.”

Prosecutors say that a single of the forms of schemes with which Abbas was involved, a business enterprise e mail compromise or BEC, has price providers and people today $43 billion between 2016 and 2021. The scheme will involve targeting companies and individuals who on a regular basis have interaction in wire transfers, this sort of as serious estate brokers or legislation corporations, and then possibly “spoofing” or hacking into e mail accounts that direct them to wire cash to accounts managed by the fraudsters.

Abbas set up at the very least five fictitious “shell” firms and set up bank accounts in the names of these entities. The victims would be instructed to wire funds to individuals accounts.

Abbas was to begin with prosecuted in Essex County but the scenario was afterwards taken over by federal prosecutors.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be arrived at at 978-338-2521, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis