Syria Money Transmitting Charges, Man Pleads Guilty

Defendant admits to sending over 4.8 million dollars to Syria through intermediary countries including Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and China.

SAN FRANCISCO (FBI) — United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced that Hesham Badawi pleaded guilty to operating an illegal money transmitting business. Mr. Badawi admitted that he illegally sent close to five million dollars to Syria through his business. This guilty plea is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mr. Badawi, age forty-four of Pinole, California was charged with one count of conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1960. He pleaded guilty as charged.

In pleading guilty, Mr. Badawi admitted that from January 22, 2001 to August 9, 2006, in San Francisco, he routinely transmitted money by wire to recipients outside the United States. To run his business, Mr. Badawi maintained funds at five local banks and wired the money overseas from those accounts. He used those bank accounts to transmit over 4.8 million dollars abroad to over fifty beneficiaries in twenty-two countries for final payment to individuals in Syria. The business was a sophisticated operation with money being wired through foreign intermediaries in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, China, France, Switzerland, Germany, and South Korea.

As detailed in his plea agreement, Mr. Badawi ran this money transmitting service as a for profit business. The service was open and available to the public to wire transfer money outside the United States to recipients in Syria. Mr. Badawi had neither sought nor received a license from the State of California to engage in a business of receiving money for the purpose of transmitting funds to foreign countries.

Mr. Badawi is scheduled to be sentenced on April 17, 2008 before the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker, Chief Judge, United States District Court. The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1960 is five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Blake D. Stamm is the Assistant United States Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Miche Sharpe.