Used Car Salesman Scammed Car Dealers, Laundered Funds at Cincinnati Casino

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According to an FBI affidavit, a man who ran a car sales fraud laundered his ill-gotten profits through a casino. Ismail Shalash, 36, is a Palestinian citizen who is currently on the run in Morocco.

Fishy Online Car Sales

Shalash’s scheme started with an online “business” selling luxury cars to car dealers. He sometimes went by the pseudonym Armand Brigante and represented the company MDDI Inc. He convinced the dealers to pay him before they received the vehicles. However, they never existed. Shalash took $1.77 million from five victims from four states and tried to scam eight others out of $3.48 million.

According to the affidavit, Shalash would then withdraw large amounts of money almost immediately after receiving funds for victims.

Shalash allegedly visited Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati to launder his money. He deposited $464,796 at the casino between May 24 and August 24 and cashed out $789,541. His deposits were often “front money,” which he meant to leave in the casino’s pockets for future gambling.

Shalash not only cashed out money “significantly more than the amount of deposit,” but documents pertaining to the casino reveal “patterns of suspicious activity” in which Shalash used his casino account as a conduit to transfer large amounts of funds he received through financial transaction channels.

Despite electronic payments and record-keeping regulations making it harder in recent years, casinos can still be used by criminals to launder cash. They are cash-intensive businesses.

Wife Unable to Avoid Capture

Although his wife, Abir Mulawwah, was arrested around a week ago by the police, Shalash managed to avoid arrest. It seems like he could use his lightning-fast courtship to get rid of Mulawwah. They met in Houston and they flew to Cincinnati shortly after. There, they were married.

They fled to Morocco soon after, but Shalash depleted his bank accounts and took $500,000 by cashier’s check before they could return. Mulawwah set up a safe deposit box in Houston at a bank where she believed she was hiding some of Shalash’s fraud money.

Federal agents discovered that Mulawwah planned to fly to Houston in November to retrieve the safe deposit money. She went on a luxury shopping spree, and she had plans to return to the US to continue to take cash back to Morocco and to buy more luxury goods to be sold back in Africa.

FBI agents obtained a search warrant to search the safe deposit box four days after Mulawwah arrived in Houston. They found $300,000. Later, she was arrested at the airport. Mulawwah claimed to the FBI that she was not married anymore to Shalash and hasn’t been in touch with him since September. She said she doesn’t know where he is.

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