Nine charged with $3.4 million construction embezzlement scheme

Moses Smith, 42, and eight others charged. (NL)

FBI says former Beck Group Construction Manager and 8 others involved

HOUSTON – A total of nine people have been charged with wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a scheme to embezzle $3.4 from the Beck Group in Houston, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

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A 24-count indictment was last week against seven defendants charged for their roles in the scheme – Hannah Musleh, 49, and Akram Elias Musleh, 54, both of Houston; Collette Devoe Hines, 49, and Lanamasha Hampton, 42, both of Atlanta, Georgia; Janell Crosby Quant, 38, of Union City, Georgia; Heather Ashley Sowa, 31, of Denver, Colorado; and William Lewis Sutton Jr., 48, of Los Angeles, California. A criminal information charging Moses Said, 42, of Houston, was filed yesterday, while a criminal complaint was previously filed against Charles Lee Williams, 42, of Los Angeles.

As a construction manager with the Beck Group, Said was in charge of the Le Meridien Hotel Project in downtown Houston from 2016 to 2017, according to court records. Hampton, Quant, Hines, Sowa, Hannah Musleh, Akram Musleh, Sutton and Williams allegedly created shell companies in the scheme which submitted false invoices to the Beck Group for payment for construction products that were not provided and construction services that were not performed.

Said allegedly approved and submitted the false invoices for payment, causing the Beck Group to issue payments to the shell companies. Upon receipt of the monies, the other seven defendants allegedly paid some of the fraud proceeds to Said. They allegedly attempted to conceal and disguise the nature and origin of the proceeds by transferring them to other companies and individuals.

The Beck Group’s website lists Integrity as one of their core values: “INTEGRITY is doing the right thing when no one is looking and behaving with uncompromising honesty. We believe in maintaining lasting relationships based on honesty, consistency and with the highest ethical standards. This creates credibility in our personal and professional relationships.”

The 21-story, 225 guest room Le Meridien Hotel was redesigned and constructed from the 1952 Melrose Building in Houston.

If convicted, all face up to 20 years in prison and a possible $6.8 million maximum fine.

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Vernon Lewis is prosecuting the case.

 

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