Share article:
Share article:

Belgian man faces jail time in US for cheating charities

The federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, where Said will be sentenced. © Wikimedia

A 37-year-old Belgian man is in custody in the US awaiting sentencing for cheating a series of charities using a fake-cheque scheme. He faces up to seven years in prison.

Aref Zokita Said was part of a gang that ran a simple but effective cheque scam. The would send a cheque to the charity as a donation, and then claim there had been a mistake and the amount on the cheque was too high. They then asked for the charity to refund a portion of the money. By the time the charity went to pay the cheque into the bank, it was discovered to be fake, and the money was gone.

The gang worked mainly in the state of Massachusetts, and their targets also included non-profits and even law firms.

Prosecutors had initially warned that Said faced up to 20 years in prison, three years of electronic surveillance after coming out of prison, a fine of one million dollars and the repayment of the money he had stolen. Later they came back with a requirement for seven years in prison.

When the gang was rolled up, Said escaped to Morocco, but was arrested on an international arrest warrant in April 2018, arriving in Boston in December 2018. He has been in custody since then. In October he pleaded guilty to the charges of fraud and wire fraud – misuse of federal communications systems to commit fraud.

As well as the prison sentence demanded by prosecutors, he will also be required to repay his victims, with the sum of $125,000 being mentioned as his share of the organised fraud operation. Prosecutors have named him as one of the leading figures in the gang, which was run from Nigeria and operated in the US by Said – whose family is Moroccan but who has Belgian nationality – and a Spanish man.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Vaccination coverage in Wallonia breaks 70 percent
The Wallonia Region in Belgium has reached the milestone of having 70 percent of its population receive at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, ...
Belgian youth asked to skip school for Friday’s climate strike
Young people in Belgium have been called on by the climate movement Youth for Climate to once again skip school and take to the streets during the ...
Belgium to invest in sustainable heating in 2022
The federal government will set aside about one million euros in its 2022 budget for a social tariff for sustainable heating, Federal Energy Minister ...
Over 50,000 march against fascism in Rome
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against fascism in Rome on Saturday, one week after violent protests against the Covid certificate. Over ...
Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...
Belgium’s health minister not in favour of a general booster shot
The latest figures on new coronavirus cases are worrying, but rather than imposing new safety measures, what is needed is full compliance with ...
Thousands protest against the Covid health pass in France
Demonstrations against the health pass and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus mobilised tens of thousands of protesters ...
Record-breaking 770-metre highline installed in Freÿr, Belgium
A 770-metre long highline was installed at an altitude of 70 metres at the Freÿr Rocks on Saturday, setting a new Belgian record, according to ...
Huge cannabis farm discovered inside closed down Chinese restaurant near Charleroi
A cannabis plantation with several hundred mature plants was dismantled on Friday evening in a former Chinese restaurant on Chaussée de Bruxelles ...
Citizen founded wind turbine project launched in Liège region
A citizen founded wind turbine project was inaugurated in the Liège Region on Saturday by Walloon Energy Minister Philippe Henry (Ecolo) together ...
Five questions to philosopher Philippe Van Parijs on Leopold II and embarrassment in Brussels’ public space
The worldwide explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, combined with the 60th anniversary of the ...
Unfinished draft of new Astérix story discovered
The discovery of the unfinished draft of a cartoon album on the most famous of all Gauls, sketched by cartoonist René Goscinny, was announced by his ...