Some of the small business owners were wiped out by the group of thieves that included Steven “Fouad" Nacim, 49, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Newark who fled to his native Morocco in 2002 to avoid prosecution.
Nacim, who'd been under house arrest with GPS location monitoring, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Newark to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
He'd been part of "a large Middle Eastern Criminal Enterprise" that "engaged in numerous financial fraud schemes," cashing bogus checks and then wiring the proceeds into different accounts, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Ring members also bought computers and computer-related merchandise using a $289,326 rubber check from a sham business based out of East Rutherford and Casablanca that they called Computer 3000 and several accounts controlled by conspirators, an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Newark in July 2002 alleges.
Nacim then "used the majority of the funds for his own benefit and for the benefit of his computer business," Carpenito said.
An international warrant was issued for Nacim soon after the indictment was returned.
Nacim agreed to pay $240,580 in restitution to the victimized bank and to forfeit the same amount as part of a deal with the government. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 26.
Handling the case for the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirley U. Emehelu, chief of Carpenito's Asset Recovery Money Laundering Unit in Newark.
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