Fairfax County police arrested a Gainesville woman today (Wednesday) for reportedly posing as an attorney in a fraud scheme that particularly targeted Latino immigrants.
Jasmine Moawad, 45, has been charged with two counts of obtaining money on false pretense, felony charges that collectively carry a possible sentence of up to 20 years in jail and fines of up to $200,000, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano says.
Moawad was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center and later released on a $8,000 unsecured personal recognizance bond, according to police.
Descano joined Fairfax County Police Department officials at the county’s public safety headquarters this afternoon to urge community members to come forward if they have additional information related to the ongoing investigation.
“We are here today to encourage anyone who has more information about this matter to please come forward,” Descano said. “I want to especially make clear to members of our community who may feel that they’ve been ignored by the criminal justice system that we take crimes against them very seriously.”
Descano says his office hasa community trust policy that prohibits prosecutors and staff members from assisting federal immigration authorities with civil enforcement cases.
“If you have relevant information, you do not need to fear ICE or deportation if you come forward,” Descano said. “We have no tolerance for individuals who prey on our immigrant neighbors, because immigrant neighbors make our community whole, and my office will do everything in its power to safeguard Fairfax County’s immigrant communities.”
According to Capt. Ron Manzo, commander of the FCPD’s criminal intelligence division, police started investigating Moawad after an acquaintance of one of two identified victims contacted police “out of concern for the welfare of the victim.”
The FCPD says Moawad represented herself as an attorney with an organization called Americanos for America Party Incorporated and claimed that she would provide legal assistance for immigration cases.
According to police, Moawad utilized rented office space in the Tysons area and obtained clients through referrals and by advertising with fliers in restaurants, laundromats, and other venues. She then charged them for services that were never rendered and that she is not qualified to provide.
Manzo says detectives have identified two victims so far but are aware of five.
“Amongst victims that have been identified thus far, detectives have determined a pattern that suggests Ms. Moawad targeted racial and ethnic minority community members and, specifically, Latino immigrants,” FCPD Deputy Chief for Investigations and Operations Support Lt. Col. Thomas Ryan said. “Exploiting fear and offering a promise of hope to unsuspecting victims through deceit and misrepresentation will not be tolerated against any member of our community.”
Fairfax County police are working with Virginia State Police and Prince William County, where Moawad resides, on the investigation.
The FCPD is asking potential victims to call 703-802-2750. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through the department’s Crime Solvers site by phone (1-866-411-TIPS), online, or by texting “FCCS” plus tip to 847411.
“Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest,” the FCPD says.
Descano says this type of crime is a priority for his office, which will expand with 15 additional positions in the county budget for the next fiscal year.
“I think it’s very important that all members of the Fairfax County community know that they have a justice system working for them and an elected commonwealth’s attorney who’s going to take their issues seriously,” Descano said. “That’s why it’s so important that we get this message loud and clear out there, because if there are other victims, we want to get justice for those individuals as well.”