Leader of Arson Ring Sentenced to 137 Years in Prison
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 08, 2013|
A resident of Beverly Hills, Michigan was sentenced today to 137 years after having been found guilty of arson and other charges related to wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley, III, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division; Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; and William Hayes, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations.
Ali Darwich, 31, of Beverly Hills, Michigan, was convicted of 33 counts of wire and mail fraud, arson, and money laundering following a jury trial before the Honorable Robert H. Cleland in U.S. District Court in Detroit in December 2012.
Evidence presented at trial showed that beginning in 2005, Ali Darwich, along with eight co-defendants, ran an arson-for-profit ring in the greater Detroit metropolitan area. Their crimes involved burning down numerous houses and businesses, committing insurance fraud, and submitting false claims for reimbursement. Specifically, Darwich, along with his co-conspirators, would purchase insurance for various dwellings, businesses, and vehicles. After purchasing the insurance, Darwich and others would intentionally burn, vandalize, or flood the various properties or vehicles and then file false insurance claims seeking reimbursement for such things as structural repair, contents replacement, loss of profits, and alternative living costs. One of those properties included a building located at 14909-14911 Cheyenne in Detroit Darwich set ablaze on December 30, 2008. Darwich was seen entering the house carrying a bottle of liquid. Minutes later he was seen running from the house empty handed. He was arrested after the police noticed the house going up in flames. In another incident, Darwich set a delayed fire at Warrendale Hardware located at 16041 W. Warren in Detroit. That fire resulted in more than $500,000 dollars in damage.
Darwich also placed the ownership of various properties in the names of friends and family members in order to hide their true ownership. Seven insurance companies were defrauded for over $5 million.
The eight co-conspirators were convicted by guilty pleas and were sentenced. Those include:
- Fatima Toufaili, 29, of Beverly Hills, Michigan
- Ashak Ashaq, 43, of Warren, Michigan
- Mazen Mazraani, 32, of Dearborn, Michigan
- Ali Alaouie, 34, of Dearborn, Michigan
- Benjamin Youhanna, 40, of Farmington Hills, Michigan
- Fayez Debouk, 26, of Dearborn, Michigan
- Rabhi Ali, 29, of Dearborn, Michigan
- Jad Alawie, 38 of Dearborn, Michigan
FBI Special Agent in Charge Foley, stated, “This guilty verdict comes as the result of countless hours of hard work by the FBI and our law enforcement partners. The FBI is committed to stopping arson for profit and ensuring criminals face severe penalties for these illegal acts.”
Special Agent in Charge Martinez stated, “Ali Darwich and his associates hatched a plan to set fire to several houses, scam the insurance companies with false claims, and launder the illegal proceeds in order to enrich themselves. IRS agents used their financial expertise in solving these crimes.”
Special Agent in Charge Hays stated, “Today’s sentencing sends a crystal clear message that federal law enforcement will continue to aggressively target and take down criminal groups responsible for perpetuating crime and blight in metro Detroit.”
“Arson is a very dangerous crime that can cause loss of life,” McQuade said. “We hope that this conviction sends a strong message that individuals who commit arson for profit will be brought to justice.”
The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Dearborn Police Department, and the Detroit Fire Department. Assistant United States Attorney Ron Waterstreet represented the United States at trial.