United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Muhammad Naji (34, Tampa) has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, beginning in January 2014, Naji conspired with others to launder money that had been obtained as the result of fraud. In one of the fraudulent schemes, the conspirators sent “phishing” emails to law firms around the country soliciting legal representation in a fictitious contract dispute. After convincing a firm to tentatively agree to the representation, the conspirators would email fictitious documentation demonstrating their claim. They would also request that the law firm issue a demand letter for the full amount owed on the contract. The conspirators would then mail a forged certified bank check to the law firm as payment to resolve the dispute. The “client” would contact the firm and instruct them to wire the funds, minus the retainer fee, to a specific bank account. If the conspirators were successful in their scam, the law firm would authorize the wiring of the funds before the check cleared.
During the execution of the wire fraud schemes, Naji opened multiple bank accounts, or had others open them for him. Once the fraud proceeds were successfully wired into his accounts, Naji would quickly wire the funds to other bank accounts controlled by conspirators, many of which were outside of the United States, including China, Hong Kong, and Canada. From January 2014, through and including the present, Naji opened more than 35 fraudulent accounts with an estimated loss exposure of more than $2.5 million.
This case was investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Jackson.