By Robert E. Kessler. STAFF WRITER
A Long Island City man who was charged with defrauding his estranged wife before she was found murdered in January in her Hicksville home was named as "the prime suspect" in her murder yesterday by a federal prosecutor.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Brown said that [Defendant], 62, of 43-20 40th St., was considered the main suspect in the death of his wife, Ourida, 54, in arguing that the husband should be permanently detained without bail pending trial on the federal fraud charges at a hearing in federal District Court in Hauppauge.
Ourida Bessaha was found murdered, in what police described as a violent scene, in her Hicksville home on Brittle Lane.
[Defendant's] attorney, Todd Greenberg of Forest Hills, however, denied yesterday that his client was involved in the murder of his wife or any fraud against her, and said, "In fact, he has been fully cooperating" with Nassau detectives involved in the homicide investigation.
Sources said yesterday that the Nassau County medical examiner had determined that Ourida Bessaha had been killed by a least 20 savage blows to the head from what appeared to be the claw end of a hammer.
And the sources said that Nassau County and federal officials are awaiting the outcome of lab tests to determine whether [Defendant] should be charged in the homicide.
Brown, in arguing that [Defendant] should be held without bail, said that the murderer had gained access to the house without breaking in, had violently attacked the victim, that robbery or rape was not a motive, and that the estranged husband was engaged in a scheme to defraud her of her share of their more than $1.4 million in assets.
Federal officials in arresting [Defendant] last week said that the couple had a violent relationship in which Ourida Bessaha had, at one time, gotten an order of protection against her husband, and they were currently in the midst of a bitter divorce action. The Bessaha case is being jointly investigated by federal postal inspectors, the Nassau Homicide Squad and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the U.S. State Department.
In addition to Bessaha's being a suspect in the murder, prosecutor Brown also argued that he should be held without bail as a flight risk because he had substantial assets in his native Algeria, he had apparently illegally obtained several U.S. and Algerian passports, and he had previously ignored orders from state court not to transfer his and his wife's money overseas.
Brown also said [Defendant] had reason to jump bail because he faced up to 9 years in prison if convicted on the federal charges of fraud and money laundering in connection with the shipping of the couple's joint assets overseas.
Defense lawyer Greenberg said that the fraud-related charges were not substantial and that his client faced minimal prison time, even if convicted.
But federal Magistrate Arlene Lindsey ruled that, without going into the merits of [Defendant's] relation to his wife's death, there was a substantial risk based on the government's other claims that [Defendant] might flee, and she ordered him held without bail pending trial.