SAN FRANCISCO - A Canadian-Lebanese citizen was extradited from Greece to the U.S. to face fraud and money laundering charges in San Francisco, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Nemr Hallak, charged with operating a telemarketing fraud and money laundering conspiracy in April 2016, made his initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on Monday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said in a statement.
According to a seven-count superseding indictment, Hallak, with co-conspirators, allegedly operated a "business directory" telemarketing scam between January 2010 and August 2014. His operations allegedly called and deceived churches, doctors' offices, nonprofits, mom-and-pop stores and small businesses into paying for business directory services they neither ordered nor received.
Prosecutors alleged Hallak and his colleagues formed shell companies in Florida and Delaware in the names of nominees, who were paid in cash to be listed as officers and directors of these firms that used the term "Yellow Pages" to suggest their operations were legitimate.
According to the superseding indictment, Hallak and the others deceived victims into thinking they had a pre-existing business relationship with a "Yellow Pages," or another entity formed by the suspects that they had previously purchased business directory services and that they owed the alleged scammers for those services.
Prosecutors said victims were told that they owed the suspects between $400 and $1,800 for a previously purchased business directory listing. They were allegedly harassed and threatened with legal action and sent more bogus invoices with additional charges if they did not pay.
Hallak and others are accused of collecting at least $10.8 million in proceeds due to these conspiracies, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Based on the superseding indictment, Hallak was also allegedly involved in a conspiracy to launder the proceeds of a separate telemarketing fraud, from March 2011 to May 2013.
Hallak was arrested in Greece after an Interpol Red Notice was issued. He is set to appear in a detention hearing on Dec. 21.
Hallak faces one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud, and one count of wire fraud.
If convicted, Hallak faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, plus restitution if appropriate for each count of mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
The maximum sentence for violation of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20 years in prison, plus a fine of $500,000, or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, prosecutors said.