Sept. 24, 2003 – The owner of Plaza Extra Supermarkets and three of his associates indicted on charges including money laundering and mail fraud involving some $60 million allegedly smuggled out of the Virgin Islands pleaded innocent to all counts in District Court on Wednesday.
Fathi Yusuf, 62, his son Maher "Mike" Yusuf, 36, and brothers Waleed "Wally" Hamed, 38, and Waheed "Willie" Hamed, 41, entered the pleas to charges handed up by a federal grand jury and announced on Friday by U.S. Attorney David Nissman.
An arrest warrant has been issued for a fifth man named in the indictment — Isam Yousef, 51, said by authorities to reside in St. Martin. Yousuf faces money-laundering charges.
Fathi Yusuf and the Hamed brothers also face tax-evasion charges.
Attorney Robert King, who represents Fathi Yusuf, declined to comment after Wednesday's hearing.
The defendants are charged with managing a conspiracy to smuggle money through the Plaza Extra chain to bank accounts in Amman, Jordan and St. Martin. The stores generated $300 million in sales, $60 million of which the men did not report, according to the indictment. FBI officials have said in court that the money was used to buy real estate in Jordan and the Virgin Islands.
If convicted, the defendants could face maximum prisons terms of 20 to 93 years, depending on the charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office also is seeking repayment of the $60 million through the forfeiture of up to 13 pieces of real property on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Two other defendants named in separate and unrelated indictments that Nissman announced on Friday also entered pleas of innocent in District Court on Wednesday.
St. Thomas physician Paul V. Maynard pleaded innocent to 170 counts of wrongfully prescribing the painkillers OxyContin, Vicodin and Percoset to various patients in 2000 and 2001. The grand jury indictment also charges Maynard, 52, with causing the death of Aaron Houle, 26, who died of an OxyContin overdose on St. Thomas on May 27, 2001, according to Drug Enforcement Administration officials. Maynard could face life in prison if convicted of the charges.
Deputy Health Commissioner Lucien Moolenaar II pleaded innocent to charges that he illegally cashed government paychecks totaling more than $102,497 from July 1995 to September 2000. The grand jury charged that Moolenaar, 59, erroneously received extra pay because of a computer glitch in the payroll system and that he cashed 63 checks for $1,626.95, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Moolenaar was charged with embezzlement relating to the same paychecks in 2001 in Territorial Court, but that case was dismissed in January after the government tried to amend the charges. Moolenaar, who is still working as deputy Health commissioner, could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.