Brothers in 1992 bank fraud indicted Convicted in a scheme against a W. Chester bank, the 3 were charged with committing more financial crimes.

Posted: April 27, 2002

Three brothers already convicted of causing the 1992 financial collapse of a West Chester bank, and nine others were indicted yesterday on federal charges that they committed further multimillion-dollar fraud even after they were prosecuted.

The latest indictments follow four more years of investigations into what federal authorities yesterday called one of the court district's "most substantial bank fraud prosecutions" of the last decade.

In 1996, three New Jersey brothers, all Jordanian nationals - Hitham Abuhouran (also known as Steve Houran); Adham Abuhouran (also known as Adam Houran) and Aktham Abuhouran (also known as Tony Houran) - and their sister, Adma Abuhouran, were convicted of scheming to steal $9 million from the Bank of the Brandywine Valley. The amount was more than the bank's total assets.

U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan said yesterday that the government uncovered evidence in May 1997 that the three brothers continued "to engage in substantial financial crimes" even as they were being prosecuted. Bail for Steve Houran, the brother said to be the group's leader, was revoked; the three other siblings were placed under house arrest.

On Aug. 14, 1997, those three allegedly cut off their electronic monitoring bracelets and attempted to flee the country. One brother was caught but the other brother and sister escaped to Jordan.

The latest indictment, focusing on the escape plans, charges that Houran family members and their associates deposited counterfeit checks worth more than $2 million into accounts under their control and then tried to have the money wired to Jordan.

All but one of the banks detected the scheme, however, according to the indictment, and only $185,000 of the money was wired as requested.

The bank's president Seth T. Gardner eventually was sentenced to three years in prison for facilitating what a federal judge called at the time the Hourans' "very gross frauds."

All of the original defendants in the case were convicted of bank fraud, money laundering, perjury and other charges. In addition, Steve Houran was convicted of running an ongoing financial crimes enterprise, under the so-called financial-kingpin statute.

Steve Houran, now 44, is serving a 15-year sentence; his brother, Tony Houran, 45, is serving nine years, and Adam Houran, 49, remains at large in Jordan.

The sister was convicted of a minor role and sentenced to four months of home confinement.

The latest investigation found that from 1992 right up until the attempted escape, the Houran family and associates had conspired to thwart the Brandywine prosecution and to defraud financial institutions and other entities out of another $2.5 million, Meehan said.

They did so, according to the indictment, by creating shell companies, enabling them to run up $1.6 million in credit-card charges that were never repaid. The group also defrauded real-estate lenders by selling and reselling properties to each other to artificially inflate the properties' value and obtaining nearly $1 million in loans they had no intention of repaying, the indictment charges.

Those charged in yesterday's indictment included the three brothers and the wife of one of them. The sister was not mentioned in the indictment. According to the U.S. Attorney, two of those charged, Adam Houran and Izdehar Abuhouran, wife of Tony Houran, are in Jordan. Of the 10 other defendants named in the new indictments, one is believed to reside in Jordan, another in Syria, and the rest in New Jersey and Virginia.

Contact Marc Schogol at 610-313-8112 or mschogol@phillynews.com.

|
|
|
|
|