Federal jury convicts lawyer in romance, business email schemes | #datingscams | #lovescams

May 17—BOSTON — A man with a law license and ties to Belgium and Lebanon has been convicted of masterminding a series of romance and wire fraud schemes that targeted victims around the country, including a Marblehead woman.

Hassan Abbas, 54, is scheduled to be sentenced for wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and unlawful monetary transactions on Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court.

It took the jurors a little over three hours Monday afternoon to reach a verdict, shortly before 5 p.m., according to court records.

It came after a six-day trial where jurors heard from some of the victims, including the Marblehead woman who ultimately wired more than $200,000 to an imposter she encountered on a dating website.

In that case, which was originally being prosecuted in Essex County Superior Court, the woman realized the scam after confiding in a friend, who put her in contact with retired Marblehead police chief James Carney, who discovered that the FBI and law enforcement in several other states had been looking into the scheme.

Abbas, who was a citizen of both Belgium and Lebanon, held an Illinois law license at the time.

Prosecutors say in addition to romance scams, Abbas engaged in schemes in which business email accounts were compromised and then used to direct unwitting real estate buyers or brokers to wire funds to accounts Abbas controlled.

A Framingham couple, Brazilian immigrants who had saved $30,000 for a down payment on their first home, ended up among the victims, prosecutors said when Abbas was charged in federal court.

Abbas has denied being involved in a scheme.

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who took over in that job while the Abbas case was pending, cited the conviction as an example of her office’s commitment to victims.

“The defendant was part of a scheme that toyed with people’s emotions, deceiving them to take their money,” Rollins said in a press release. “The funds he swindled were supposed to be used as the down payment on a home or to fund a comfortable retirement. There are real victims in financial frauds and my office fights for victims.”

Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge for the FBI’s Boston division, said Abbas used his Illinois law license like a “shield to exploit the hopes and dreams of innocent victims to line his own pockets.”

“He targeted, preyed upon, and systematically ripped them off without a second thought,” Bonavolonta said in the same release.

He went on to say Massachusetts residents alone last year lost more than $83 million in similar schemes.

As part of the scheme Abbas set up corporate entities and bank accounts and then he or associates would direct victims to wire funds to those accounts.

Some of the victims were individuals, like the Marblehead woman and the Framingham couple. Others were companies tricked into sending payments for invoices to the sham accounts, prosecutors said.

He transferred some of the money to accounts in other countries, and used some of it to fund his own expenses.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis

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