Canadians charged in international phone scam held without bail

Posted May 13, 2011, at 5:41 p.m.
Last modified May 13, 2011, at 7:51 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge on Friday ordered two Canadian men held without bail on charges of running an international telephone scam in Canada and the United States.

Michael Angelo Giuffrida (pronounced JAH-froo-dah), 21, and Nour-El-Dean Mouneimneh (MOON-ah-may), 20, both of Quebec, came to the attention of U.S. Border Patrol agents on March 26 when the rental car the Canadians were driving pulled into a Houlton truck stop with a flat tire, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Agents pulled in behind the pair to warn them about the tire. When the men gave conflicting stories about when and where they entered the United States, the agents brought in a K-9 dog to sniff the car, the affidavit said. After the dog indicated the presence of contraband, agents searched the car.

In the spare tire well, agents found $89,808 in U.S. currency, $200 in Canadian money and $10,440 in Western Union traveler’s checks. They also found seven cell phones, a laptop and a global positioning device in duffel bags in the trunk.

From the traveler’s checks, investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that between March 1 and 31, a Presque Isle woman and her son had sent a total of $56,000 in Western Union money orders to the pair, according to the affidavit. The woman told ICE agents that she had received a phone call from a man who identified himself as a police sergeant in New York who said her grandson had been in an accident and was in trouble in Cincinnati, Ohio, and needed money.

The grandson, identified in the affidavit by the initials “W.S.,” left Portland about six years ago for Ohio and the grandmother had no contact information for him, according to the affidavit.

The investigation, with assistance from a Canadian watchdog group called Phonebusters, led to victims in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Jersey, and clerks where the money orders were retrieved identified Giuffrida and Mouneimneh from photos, according to the affidavit.

The men, who had been detained since border agents first noticed the flat tire, were charged May 6 with transportation of stolen property and possession of stolen property in interstate commerce.

If convicted, each faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. They most likely would be ordered to pay restitution if convicted.

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