A Belgian man who was part of a gang that defrauded charities and law offices in the United States of millions of dollars has been sentenced to 60 months in prison and ordered to repay $1.6 million to his victims.
Aref Zokita Said, aged 37, a Belgian national of Moroccan background, took part in a scam which involved sending a cheque to the charity as a donation, and then calling to tell them the sum involved was a mistake, and ask them to repay a portion. Some agreed, but when they came to cash the original cheque they found it was worthless.
The victims included charities, some non-profit organisations and law offices.
Prosecutors in Massachusetts initially told Said he could be facing 20 years in prison. They later came back to court with a demand for a seven-year sentence. The court finally ordered him to go to jail for five years.
Said fled the US as the net closed on the gang, and went to Morocco. There he was arrested on an international warrant, and was extradited to the US eight months later. He has been awaiting trial in Boston since December 2018. Allowing for time served in Morocco and the US, he could have just over three years left to serve.
Said has also been sentenced to a further three years of supervised release and ordered to repay $1.6 million (about €1.5 million) to the organisations he helped defraud, which included charities and lawyers working for the disabled, victims of sexual violence, poor children and the environment.
The Brussels Times