Florence man charged in federal pandemic fraud case released on bond | #phishing | #scams

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — A man facing federal pandemic fraud charges has posted a $25,000 bond and been released from the Florence County Detention Center, according to online jail records.

Mohammad Ribhi Farraj, 42, was released on Monday. His wife, Nariman Mahmoud Masoud, who is also charged in the case, was previously released on a $25,000 bond. They are accused of stealing more than $500,000 and have pleaded not guilty to financial crimes related to pandemic fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

Farraj is the owner of Lakeside Financial Group, Inc., a business registered in Florida, according to court documents. The couple intended to “fraudulently enrich themselves by filing and receiving fraudulent claims” and receive pandemic benefits in South Carolina, Florida and New York by using other people’s identities. The funds were received mostly by prepaid debit cards.

Authorities have alleged that the couple obtained people’s identification without their knowledge or consent, submitted false claims using that information and then used debit cards with pandemic funds loaded onto them to withdraw money from ATMs, according to the documents. They then used the proceeds to continue the scheme.

While he is out on bond, Farraj will be under home detention and GPS monitoring for at least six months. He also is not allowed to open any new lines of credit or bank accounts or transfer any funds without the approval of probation officials, according to online court records. He also must continue his employment at a gas station in Dillon and is not permitted to have any contact with any victim or potential witness in the case.

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Farraj’s case in U.S. District Court in Florence has been continued until the June term of the court.

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