Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Iranian Pleads Not Guilty in Bank Fraud Scheme Netted $250,000 in Duval

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Iranian Pleads Not Guilty in Bank Fraud Scheme Netted $250,000 in Duval

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler, Times-Union staff writer

U.S. Secret Service agents in Jacksonville are continuing to unravel an international money laundering scheme in which banks were bilked of more than $1 million, including $250,000 in Jacksonville.

The two-year investigation has led to a series of arrests, including that of Kourosh Ziaee, who pleaded not guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Ziaee, 44, of Iran, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Thomas E. Morris in Jacksonville and was ordered held without bail.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Ziaee was indicted by a grand jury in December and was arrested shortly afterward in Nevada, authorities said.

"I would say that we consider him the main target of the investigation," said Cary Rosoff, special agent in charge of the Secret Service office in Jacksonville.

The scheme involved stolen and forged Canadian checks that were cashed throughout the United States, including in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Louisville, Ky. The banks defrauded in Jacksonville were the Educational Community Credit Union, First Union and the Bank of America. They were all federally insured.

Organizers used middlemen to recruit people to open bank accounts and deposit the checks. The funds were withdrawn before the banks learned the checks were stolen, and the money was given to those involved. The scheme was made easy because banks in the United States don't place extended holds on international checks from Canada like other countries, court records said.

Each of the withdrawals was less than $10,000 so they couldn't be tracked through government-required documentation. At least some of the money was delivered to the scheme's organizers in mailed magazines, which had portions cut out to hide the cash, records show. …

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