Two people living in the Buffalo, New York area have been charged with diverting money to themselves that they were supposed to use to establish a radio station in Iraq. They’re now facing possible prison sentences for defrauding a United Nations agency.
Acting US Attorney Kathleen Mehltretter announced a 14-count indictment charging Deborah Bowers, of Clarence, NY, and Steve Jabar, of Tonawanda, NY, with wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements in connection with a scheme to defraud the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) of tens of thousands of dollars. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.
The two actually did launch a radio station in Iraq after obtaining a $350,000 grant from UNIFEM in 2004 via the non-profit Opportunities for Kids International (OKI) where they worked. However, they allegedly diverted tens of thousands of dollars of the UNIFEM grant money to pay their personal debts, expenses, credit card bills and property taxes.
The indictment alleges that Jabar and Bowers attempted to cover up their unlawful scheme by emailing a fraudulent quarterly report to UNIFEM purporting to account for all of the UNIFEM grant money as having been spent on the radio station and by making false statements to federal law enforcement agents who were investigating their unlawful scheme. Finally, the indictment lists several withdrawals and other transactions from OKI bank accounts, resulting in money laundering charges.
“UNIFEM intended that the grant money would be used by the defendants and OKI to promote women’s rights in Iraq. Although the defendants did establish a radio station
in Iraq, they undermined the goal of the radio station by diverting tens of thousands of dollars of the grant money to enrich themselves,” said Mehltretter.
The investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service and FBI, with assistance from the US State Department and the US Mission to the United Nations.