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Scam Targets Iraqi Americans

DETROIT - Hundreds of Iraqi Americans were fleeced of millions of dollars in a ponzi scheme operated by two Michigan men, according to a class action filed this week in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

"Most of the families in Dearborn have been touched by the scheme," Troy lawyer Gerard Mantese said Friday, a day after the suit was filed. He said the investors ranged from high school students to homemakers and blue-collar workers to multimillionaire investors, who lost several thousand to several million dollars each.

Mantese estimated the total losses at more than $1 billion.

Federal authorities confirmed Friday that they have begun reviewing the allegations in the suit.

The suit identified the plaintiffs as John Does 1-114 because they are afraid of reprisals if named, Mantese said. The suit alleges Abdzhra Shalushi and Ahmed Alabadi masterminded the scheme, with 18 agents and three corporations listed as codefendants.

The Free Press couldn't locate either man for comment.

"Defendants took advantage of cultural and religious concepts of honor and fairness to cloak their promises and their agents' promises with credibility," the suit charged. "It has shattered the social and economic fabric of the Iraqi-American community."

It said investors were promised returns of 80 percent to 100 percent on their investments and the return of their principal in eight to 12 months on several ventures in the Middle East.

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