MARBLEHEAD — An Illinois lawyer with ties to Belgium and Lebanon was sentenced to 9 yrs in prison Friday for his part in a romance scam that swindled victims all-around the place, such as a Marblehead woman, out of huge quantities of money.
Pursuing his launch from that prison expression, Hassan Abbas, 55, will have to invest three decades on supervised release and need to forfeit a lot more than $2 million to shell out restitution, U.S. District Courtroom Decide Leo Sorokin ruled on Friday. He also faces deportation.
Abbas was observed guilty by a jury in May perhaps of income laundering, conspiracy to commit funds laundering, wire fraud and illegal monetary transactions.
The victims involved females who believed they were being sending resources to a passionate spouse to start out a business enterprise, and some authentic estate consumers and brokers who had been conned into wiring funds for authentic estate transactions to an account managed by Abbas. One particular Framingham pair, immigrants from Brazil, missing the $30,000 they had saved for a down payment on their residence.
Prosecutors claimed when Abbas been given the money he stored a portion for himself, which he used on global travel and luxurious items, and forwarded the rest to accomplices abroad.
Domestically, the circumstance started off with a girl in Marblehead who met a male calling himself “James Deere” on a relationship website. The gentleman confident the victim that he needed her assist to keep commission funds in a financial institution account although he organized to commence his very own investment company in Massachusetts. By the time a friend persuaded her that she had fallen sufferer to a scam, she’d now wired far more than $200,000 to numerous persons to cover purported taxes and expenses. She turned to retired Marblehead police chief James Carney, who was operating as an investigator for the Essex District Attorney’s business at the time. Carney was ready to master that federal investigators were wanting into related techniques about the region.
They eventually learned the email account for “James Deere” was found in Nigeria. Prosecutors imagine the particular person posing as James Deere was an affiliate of Abbas.
The 9-yr sentence was what prosecutors Mackenzie Queenan and David Holcomb requested.
“From at minimum 2017 by means of 2019, Hassan Abbas exploited his law diploma, peddled falsehoods about business dealings, and invoked the lawyer-shopper privilege — probably the most sacred principle governing the legal job — for his personal gain,” they wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “The evidence at demo established that Abbas was adept at shifting soiled funds and concealing his criminal involvement.”
“Cloaked in the deference afforded to him based mostly on his status as an legal professional, Abbas been given cash from unwitting victims, took a lower for himself, moved money abroad, and tried to dupe the economic establishments who asked inquiries to stay away from getting caught,” they continued.
The prosecution argued that Abbas remains “strident” in his failure to settle for duty and insists he performed only a nominal role. They argued that in actuality, Abbas performed a important function by overseeing accounts in the United States that established a bogus sense of protection in victims who in any other case could have hesitated to ship funds out of the nation.
Abbas continues to be actively certified as an attorney in Illinois, according to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois.
Nonetheless, his lawyers, Michael DiStefano and Howard Cooper, informed the decide in a sentencing memorandum that Abbas will never ever be ready to exercise regulation yet again subsequent his release, because of to the truth that he will be eliminated from the United States.
They questioned Sorokin to impose a sentence of time served, the seven months Abbas was held in custody between the jury’s verdict and his sentencing last week. They also asked the decide to think about the outcome of pretrial ailments, such as a need that he dress in a GPS and keep on being in Massachusetts — where he has no ties — had on their consumer.
“What the court docket heard about Mr. Abbas at demo is a tiny element of who he is, exactly where he will come from, and the broad outcomes he has endured and will endure from his arrest and conviction, all of which he asks the court docket to consider into consideration in sentencing him,” his legal professionals instructed the choose in a sentencing memorandum.
They also submitted letters from his household in Lebanon and the United States, describing the important cultural role Abbas had in caring for his aging parents.
“Mr. Abbas, and his prolonged household, were respected in the community,” they wrote. “Mr. Abbas himself was acknowledged to befriend homeless avenue youngsters with whom he and his dog would consistently visit and undertake entertaining pursuits.”
Abbas, they explained, was born in Sierra Leone and grew up all more than Europe, in which he attended a Swiss boarding faculty, and the Center East, ahead of coming to the United States to show up at UCLA and then DePaul College Faculty of Law.
They also cited the “gullibility and naïveté” on the element of Abbas, who took no methods to hide his identification, and as opposed him to a person serving as an accent.
Prosecutors disagreed, saying in their sentencing memorandum that Abbas knew the plan was unlawful.
Following sentencing, U.S. Lawyer Rachael Rollins explained in a statement that Abbas “abused his legislation diploma in furtherance of a scheme that stole millions of bucks from harmless victims across the region. All of Mr. Abbas’s lies and techniques have last but not least caught up with him. He was an equal possibility scammer. No matter whether it was a phony romance or a phony serious estate offer, he took gain of victims by laundering their hard-acquired cash. He will now have 9 years to realize the mistake of his approaches.”
Prosecutors say that just one of the forms of strategies with which Abbas was associated, a business email compromise or BEC, has price tag businesses and people $43 billion concerning 2016 and 2021. The scheme consists of targeting organizations and individuals who often have interaction in wire transfers, this kind of as genuine estate brokers or law companies, and then both “spoofing” or hacking into email accounts that direct them to wire money to accounts managed by the fraudsters.
Abbas established up at least five fictitious “shell” corporations and set up lender accounts in the names of individuals entities. The victims would be instructed to wire resources to these accounts.
Abbas was at first prosecuted in Essex County but the case was afterwards taken around by federal prosecutors.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis