Two fraudsters convicted after duping U.S. financial institutions into processing US$150 million in cannabis purchases

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Two men could spend decades in prison for an elaborate enterprise using fake companies, false websites and bogus customer service centres to hoodwink U.S. financial institutions into processing US$150 million ($189 million) in credit and debit card purchases for supposedly legal goods that were, in fact, weed. It took four weeks, but the trial involving Hamid “Ray” Akhavan, a 43-year-old resident of California, and Ruben Weigand, a 38-year-old resident of Germany recently ended with the two men each being convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Akhavan was the leader of the scheme and Weigand was responsible for overseeing the acquiring bank accounts used by phony merchants and sending the proceeds back to bank accounts in the U.S., according to the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York . Former plumbing company employee handed 12-year sentence for weed, fraud and money laundering convictions Mexican trucker who claimed he had to smuggle weed into the U.S. to free his kidnapped wife handed three years in prison Authorities ready to crack down on weed ‘smurfs’ and ‘loopers’ The men “were in the business of selling lies,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss says in the statement. They ginned up “fake web traffic to those fake websites, all in the service of fraudulently moving money through the United States financial system,” Strauss explains. The laundering scheme is alleged to have been operational from about 2016 through 2019. To execute the scheme, Akhavan and Weigand worked with, among others, “principals from one of the leading on-demand marijuana delivery companies in the U.S.,” notes the statement. Deceiving virtually all participants in the payment-processing network — including issuing banks in the U.S., as well as Visa and MasterCard — the two men and other co-conspirators used shell companies to disguise the cannabis…

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