$1M Fraud is Alleged / Wife of Suspect Slain

Newsday

By Robert E. Kessler. STAFF WRITER
03-04-99

A Queens man, whose estranged wife was found murdered in her Hicksville home in January, was arrested yesterday by federal agents in connection with a scheme to defraud her of her share of their more than $1 million in joint assets.

An arrest warrant by federal postal inspector Carl Sclafani details the alleged stormy marriage of [Defendant], 62, of 43-20 40th St., Long Island City, and his wife, Ourida Bessaha, 54, of Brittle Lane, Hicksville, and his complex scheme to defraud her by transferring most of their assets overseas to Swiss and Algerian banks.

Ourida Bessaha's body was found in her home on Jan. 30 in what police described as a violent scene.

When asked yesterday whether the husband was a suspect in his wife's death, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Brown said he would not comment on any aspect of the case.

[Defendant's] attorney, Todd Greenberg of Forest Hills, said his client "absolutely denies" he was involved in any crime, and he doubted that the government even has enough evidence to continue charging his client with fraud.

[Defendant] was held pending a bail hearing yesterday in federal district court in Uniondale by Magistrate Viktor Pohorelsky.

While Ourida Bessaha had filed for divorce in 1996 in an action that was still in state court at the time of her death, their allegedly rocky relationship dated back to 1979 when she had got an order of protection against her husband from Nassau State Supreme Court "after his beating and attempt to strangle me landed me in the emergency room," according to Sclafani's affidavit.

Ourida Bessaha had also gotten a court order barring her husband from transferring their assets overseas, but he engaged in an illegal scheme to evade it, the agent said. The couple's assets included an interest in an unnamed Manhattan restaurant, a Medallion taxi and otherwise undescribed rental property with a total value of $1.3 million and an additional $135,000 in cash. The cash had been illegally transferred overseas according to the affidavit. [Defendant], an Algerian native who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was also charged with lying to obtain a second U.S. passport, the affidavit said.

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