North Brunswick, Port Reading men accused of taking part in $3.5 million multi-state bank fraud conspiracy

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Seven people have been charged for their alleged roles in a large-scale conspiracy to commit bank fraud in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Michigan over the course of two years.

The criminal complaint unsealed on July 6 in Trenton federal court charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in connection with a fraudulent scheme that used hundreds of fraudulent accounts to defraud several major banks causing losses of over $3.5 million, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced on July 6.

The arrests of five of the defendants were made in coordination with two other federal investigations conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of Maryland, which led to the filing of separate criminal complaints, also unsealed today, that charged five defendants in the Eastern District of Virginia and two defendants in the District of Maryland, according to the statement. Four of the defendants in custody are scheduled to appear on July 6 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois H. Goodman.

According to documents filed in the District of New Jersey and statements made in court:

From 2018 through April 2020, the defendants allegedly conspired with each other and others to defraud several major banks and electronic merchant processors. To accomplish the conspiracy’s unlawful objective, the defendants reportedly established bank accounts associated with sham entities that had no legitimate purpose, and thereafter would issue checks payable to other sham entities associated with the criminal organization, knowing that the accounts on which the checks were drawn contained insufficient funds, according to the statement. The defendants would also allegedly conduct numerous fraudulent credit card and debit card transactions between shell companies to fraudulently credit payee accounts and fraudulently overdraw payor accounts. Alternatively, the defendants would allegedly use these shell companies to execute temporary refund credits, commonly referred to as “charge-backs,” to checking accounts associated with the criminal organization, where no prior legitimate transaction had occurred, according to the statement.

In each one of these instances, members of the criminal organization allegedly withdrew the funds (through ATMs or bank tellers) that banks and/or merchant processors had credited to the payee bank accounts at the time of the fraudulent transaction. Because the defendants withdrew the credited funds from the payee accounts before the banks could recognize the fraudulent transactions, the banks and merchant processors were left with substantial losses, according to the statement.

The investigation has identified approximately 200 bank accounts and 75 merchant credit card processing accounts used to facilitate the schemes. The defendants’ unlawful activities have caused an aggregate loss to banks and merchant processing companies of at least $3.5 million.

Habib Majid, 34, of North Brunswick, and Naveed Arif, 42, of the Port Reading section of Woodbridge, are among those charged, who also include a man from Carteret, one from New York, and three others from Michigan.

The bank fraud conspiracy count carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million.