BY: By Olivia Winslow. STAFF WRITER EDITION: NASSAU AND SUFFOLK
The lawyer for a Long Island City man facing federal charges of defrauding his estranged wife, and who authorities say is a suspect in her slaying, maintained his client's innocence at his arraignment yesterday and later lambasted a new federal indictment that accused his client of murder.
The federal indictment charges [Defendant], 62, of 43-20 40th St., with mail and wire fraud and money laundering, for allegedly defrauding his wife, Ourida, out of her share of the couple's $1.5 million in assets. The indictment alleges, among other things, that [Defendant] transferred assets out of the country in violation of a court order, and failed to disclose the existence of certain assets.
Also contained in the 11-page indictment is a statement implicating [Defendant] in his wife's slaying in January. "On or about January 30, 1999, two days before the February 1, 1999, court date \[a reference to a preliminary proceeding in the couple's divorce case\], the defendant murdered Ourida Bessaha in Hicksville, New York. As a result of her murder, the divorce proceeding she initiated was dismissed, allowing the defendant to retain possession of all marital assets." But the attorney for [Defendant], Todd Greenberg of Forest Hills, said his client denies defrauding and killing his wife. Greenberg said in an interview that the federal indictment is a "pretext because they can't prove or show he had any implication in the murder." Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Brown declined to comment on whether he anticipated murder charges being filed against [Defendant], referring questions to the Nassau district attorney's office. In arguing in U.S. District Court in March that [Defendant] should be detained without bail, Brown said that [Defendant] was the main suspect in the slaying. Brown also said at that earlier court hearing that whoever killed Ourida Bessaha had gained access to her house on Brittle Lane without breaking in, had violently attacked her and robbery or rape was not considered a motive.
Fred Klein, chief of the Nassau District Attorney's Major Offense Bureau, said he did not anticipate filing murder charges "at this time." He explained, "It's just a question of accumulating evidence sufficient to satisfy New York State law." Klein characterized [Defendant] as "a suspect" but added there were other suspects.
In a brief arraignment yesterday on what is called a "superseding indictment" before federal Magistrate Arlene Lindsay in U.S. District Court in Hauppauge, Greenberg entered a not guilty plea on his client's behalf. A hearing on issues in the case, originally set for yesterday, was rescheduled to Sept. 21 before Judge Leonard Wexler.