Virginia man pleads guilty to $53 million bank fraud

ALEXANDRIA, VA, April 30, 2010 -- Osama El-Atari, 31, of Ashburn, Va., pleaded guilty today to operating a fraud scheme that stole more than $53 million from banks throughout the United States.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio; Shawn Henry, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office; C. Frank Figliuzzi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office; and C. André Martin, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Washington, D.C., Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.

“In a scheme rife with fraud, Osama El-Atari stole more than $50 million from banks and then fled the country when the scam began to unravel,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Thanks to determined agents, we tracked him down, are holding him responsible for his crimes, and have begun the process of obtaining justice for his victims.”

“Mr. El-Atari’s lavish lifestyle was financed on repeated deception which ultimately caused tens of millions of dollars in losses to the banks,” said FBI ADIC Henry. “This type of greed and wanton disregard for others substantially harms the financial industry and consumers.”

“Money laundering constitutes a serious threat to our communities andto the integrity of our financial system,” said IRS-CI SAC C. André Martin. “IRS-CI has the financial investigators and expertise that is critical to locating the money and prosecuting the offenders.”

El Atari pled guilty to three counts of bank fraud and one count of money laundering contained in a criminal information filed in the Eastern District of Virginia and an indictment filed in the Northern District of Ohio. Sentencing has been set for July 30, 2010. El-Atari faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison on each of the bank fraud counts and 10 years in prison on the money laundering count.

In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, El-Atari acknowledged to defrauding banks in Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland of more than $53 million. In order to accomplish his fraud, El-Atari presented the banks with fraudulent life insurance policies—with purported cash values of millions of dollars—as collateral to obtain the fraudulent loans. The stated purpose of the loans was for various business ventures. To facilitate his scheme, El-Atari set up fake domain names, used fake federal express mailings and fake e-mails in order to convince the banks that his collateral was authentic. El-Atari used money obtained from his fraud to buy exotic cars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris and to purchase a multi-million-dollar home in Ashburn, Va. He fled the United States in May 2009 and was later apprehended in Texas in January 2010.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Washington, D.C., Field Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan Fahey and Jack Hanly of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant United States Attorney John Sammon of the Northern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

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