Jacksonville, Florida - Acting United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces the return by a grand jury of a superseding indictment charging Antoun Arbaji and Abas Issa with one count of conspiracy, six counts of theft of government property and six counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge, up to 10 years for each theft of government property charge, and 2 consecutive years for each aggravated identity theft charge. Arbaji faces an additional charge of making a false statement to the Department of the Treasury for which he could receive an additional five years in federal prison.
According to the indictment, Issa obtained tax refund checks that were the result of fraudulently filed tax returns that had been prepared by others, using stolen personal identification information. Many of the returns were prepared using the identities of deceased individuals. Arbaji operated a convenience store ("Fina Express") in Green Cove Springs. Issa provided the fraudulent refund checks to Arbaji, who cashed them using his business, in exchange for a fee. Arbaji then provided the proceeds to Issa. In 2011, Fina Express allegedly cashed 212 fraudulent treasury checks totaling more than $1.5 million.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.