PISCATAWAY, NJ –   Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today that 53 year old Mahamed Khan of Piscataway was one of the following 12 defendants charged with first-degree money laundering, second-degree theft by unlawful taking, and third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards:

1.     Mahamed Khan, 53, of Piscataway,

2.     Naim Tahir, 47, of Clark,

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3.     Hassan Shahbaz, 42, of Jersey City,

4.     Aqeel Ahmed, 60, of Secaucus,

5.     Shama Munir, 49, of Secaucus,

6.     Faisal Mushtaq, 37, of Secaucus,

7.     Mohammad Shakeel, 46, of Jersey City,

8.     Muhammad Farooq Bhatti, 64, of Jersey City,

9.     Rilvan Junaid, 49, of Spring Valley, N.Y.,

10.  Shakeela Ahmed, 56, of Secaucus,

11.  Aqeel Sheikh, 54, of Secaucus,

12.  Huda Ahmed, 27, of Secaucus.

According to investigators, members of this elaborate fraud ring -- many of whom live in Secaucus and Jersey City -- allegedly created “synthetic” identities by pairing real Social Security numbers with fictitious names and birth dates, using them to obtain credit cards, open bank accounts, and to steal approximately $3 million from various banks.

“Between 2012 and 2015, these defendants allegedly obtained hundreds of credit cards with fake identities, engaging in millions of dollars in phony transactions at a network of shell businesses, most of which were created solely to commit this fraud,” said Director Elie Honig of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. 

Nahim Tahir, of Clark, allegedly was primarily responsible for creating the synthetic identities and applying for the bank accounts and credit cards used in the fraud. 

Hassan Shahbaz, of Jersey City, is the owner of USA United Trading, a business in Jersey City that he allegedly opened for the sole purpose of defrauding financial institutions. It is alleged that USA United Trading conducted approximately $1.6 million in fraudulent credit card transactions over the past 22 months.  USA United Trading held itself out as a carpet retailer, with a store front at 150 Monticello Avenue in Jersey City that had several rolled up carpets in the window.

With the exception of Khan, who is being sought on an arrest warrant as a fugitive, all have been arrested and are being lodged in the Union County Jail with bail for each set at $1 million, no 10 percent option.

“While the credit card holders, businesses and purchases in this scheme were fictitious, the losses suffered by the banks were very real and totaled an alarming $3 million,” said New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.  “We’ll remain extremely vigilant on this front, because financial fraud on this scale hurts commerce and can bankroll other crimes.  Our investigation is ongoing, but we’re confident that with these arrests, we’ve dismantled this prolific theft ring in New Jersey.”

The charge of first-degree money laundering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum term of parole ineligibility of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed.  It also carries a fine of up to $500,000 and an additional anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of up to $500,000 or three times the value of any property involved.  Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Because they are indictable offenses, the charges will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.