Four Individuals Arrested for Investment Fraud Scheme Targeting Hawaii Residents
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Hawaii, For Immediate Release, Monday, March 6, 2023
HONOLULU – Today, Defendants HAITEM TAYLOR ABID DHAENE, age 19, LATIFA ZANKI DHAENE, age 47, TIM DHAENE, age 37, and SOFYANE ABID DHAENE, age 22, were arraigned in federal court on charges contained in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on February 23, 2023. The four defendants were arrested in Waikiki over the weekend by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They all pled not guilty today, and trial was set for May 8, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi. SOFYANE DHAENE was ordered released on conditions, and the three others are scheduled for detention hearings on March 7 and 8.
According to the indictment, the four individuals are charged with wire fraud involving allegations they engaged in a fraudulent investment scheme by which they obtained more than $300,000. The indictment alleges that in January 2022, the family of four arrived in Los Angeles, California, on Belgian passports and moved to Hawaii in or about September 2022. The indictment further alleges that, between October 2022 and February 2023, they solicited multiple persons in Hawaii to invest money, based on false promises that the money would be placed in high return investment contracts supposedly guaranteed by a mainland wealth management firm and its partner. HAITEM DHAENE represented he was a partner in the mainland firm, when, according to the indictment, he was not a partner, and the wealth management firm did not know about his claimed association or the purported investment contracts.
Among other things, the indictment alleges the defendants falsely claimed to have formed a private equity investment group; that they provided an investment contract promising a return of 315% per annum; and that the contract bore the name and forged signature of a mainland wealth advisor. As a result of these promises, various individuals gave the four defendants approximately $309,000, including $294,000 withdrawn from an individual’s 401k retirement account.
According to U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors, these charges are the product of close collaboration between federal and state law enforcement authorities. Specifically, the investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI and the Special Investigation and Prosecution Division (SIPD) of the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General.
“Our office is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who commit a wide variety of frauds in Hawaii,” stated U.S. Attorney Connors. “Here, we are pleased to work closely with SIPD, and believe this partnership substantially increases law enforcement’s ability to protect our community.”
“The Department of the Attorney General’s Special Investigation and Prosecution Division was created to give Hawaii a valuable tool to combat white-collar crime and human trafficking,” said Anne Lopez, Attorney General of the State of Hawaii. “This collaboration between SIPD, the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and other law-enforcement partners will bring justice to Hawaii residents.”
"This alleged fraud is an unconscionable display of greed and manipulation," said Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill. "The FBI is committed to bringing to justice those who perpetrate these outrageous scams."
Each defendant is charged with three counts of wire fraud, and each count carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison as well as a fine of up to $1 million. An indictment is merely an accusation, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case is being investigated by the FBI in partnership with SIPD. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan and Deputy Attorney General Lauren M. Nakamura, who also serves as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.