In an elaborate scheme including Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati and car sales, 36-year-old Ismail Shalash used the casino to clean his money. The dual citizen of Jordan and Palestine is now running from authorities in Morocco.
Shalash’s “business” model was surprisingly very simple. He claimed to run an online business that distributed luxury cars to various car dealerships. Oftentimes, Shalash would use the alias Armand Brigante, a fabricated salesman for a company called MDDI Inc.
Shalash would receive payment from the dealership prior to shipping the cars — which never existed and were never sent to the dealerships. He stole money from five people across the United States to the tune of $1.77 million, and tried to steal an additional $3.4 million.
How He Used Hard Rock
According to the affidavit, Shalash would withdraw large amounts of money in order to transfer the funds to Hard Rock. In the period from May 24 to August 24, Shalash deposited more $464,796 and withdrew $789,541.
According to the affidavit:
“Shalash was redeeming chips totaling significantly more than the amount of the deposit. Hard Rock documents also reveal patterns of suspicious activity in which Shalash’s casino account was used as a conduit to transfer significant amounts of funds he received from victims through financial transaction channels.” Shalash saw the casino, a business where cash is heavily used, as an easy way to clean his dirty money.
Shalash’s newly wed, Abir Mulawwah, was recently arrested, but authorities have still been unable to track him down. The two married very quickly, and some question whether the marriage was another front to aid in his money laundering.
The couple fled the country after their marriage and moved to Morocco after Shalash emptied his bank accounts and Mulawwah started a safe deposit box in a Houston bank. Authorities believed Shalash’s dirty money was being stored in that box.
As a way to fetch the money in the Houston safety deposit back, the couple planned for Mulawwah to return to the United States. She arrived in Houston November 19, and after a shopping spree she attempted to return to Morocco.
Apparently, Mulawwah planned to sell the clothes purchased in the United States. After a search warrant for the deposit box revealed $300,000 cash, Mulawwah was arrested at the Houston airport. When questioned by authorities, Mulawwah insisted that she was not married to Shalash, has no idea where he is, and that she had not talked to him in months.
Shalash is still evading authorities abroad. What do you think? Could the casino have stepped in after recognizing some suspicious behavior?
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