Earlier today, Hani Kabbara pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The plea was entered before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
The guilty plea was announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).
“In this 21st century version of an age-old scam, Kabbara conned unwitting victims, many of them elderly, into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to himself and his co-conspirators,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “This Office is committed to protecting innocent victims targeted by predators like Kabbara who operate in cyberspace.”
“Kabbara preyed on well-intentioned victims, many who were in the U.S. and elderly, when he used a telephone scheme to extort them under the guise a loved one had been arrested and the victim needed to send money in order for the grandchild to be released from jail,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney. “He masterminded his schemes from what he thought was the safety of his home in Canada, hiding behind encrypted chats and online monikers. Facing up to 20 years in prison puts an end to his calculating, criminal ways. This case again showcases the commitment of the FBI’s Cyber Task Force to investigate those involved in cybercrime and bring them to justice, no matter where in the world they may reside.”
Between February 2014 and August 2016, Kabbara, also known as “The Mayor,” ran a sophisticated scheme that used overseas call centers to extort money from unsuspecting victims, many of them elderly, in the United States. Kabbara and his co-conspirators used various threats and deceit, for example telling the victim that a grandchild had been arrested and the victim needed to send money in order for the grandchild to be released from jail. Kabbara and the co-conspirators demanded payment from his victims in the form of MoneyPaks, which are vouchers that can be loaded with cash and then used to fund prepaid debit cards. The defendant sold the MoneyPaks in online criminal forums or, with his co-conspirators, transferred the funds onto prepaid debit cards that had been obtained using stolen identities. The defendant and his co-conspirators, who communicated with each other anonymously in cyberspace through dark web forums and encrypted chat applications, then used a crew of workers in and around the New York area to withdraw funds from the debit cards, consolidate the cash and send it back to the defendant in Canada.
When he is sentenced by United States District Judge Margo K. Brodie on July 6, 2017, Kabbara faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as criminal forfeiture and fines.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security & Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorney Una A. Dean is in charge of the prosecution.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-472