BOSTON (AP) — A Tampa man has been convicted by a federal jury of stealing sports camp tuition from hundreds of families and spending the money on plastic surgery, vacations and gambling.
Mehdi Belhassan, 53, of Tampa, was found guilty of two counts of wire fraud and will be sentenced Jan. 11. A charge of wire fraud carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
Belhassan falsely claimed he was running an annual sports camp at a Boston-area college in July and August 2019 and collected $380,000 in payments from more than 300 families across the United States. He also collected $191,000 in advance payments from an online payment company and a commercial finance company.
“Mr. Belhassan preyed upon the trust of families, promising summer fun while plotting his own indulgence. He lured in, deceived and betrayed over 300 families — diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars not to the promised camps, but to personal pursuits like plastic surgery and extravagant vacations at Las Vegas casinos,” Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement.
Jodi Cohen, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division, said the conviction holds Belhassan “accountable for lining his own pockets” at the expense of the families.
“During these challenging times, financial fraudsters are doing everything they can to cheat people out of their hard-earned money, while the FBI is doing everything we can to make sure they don’t succeed,” he added.
Belhassan’s attorney could not be reached for comment. A phone number also could not be found for Belhassan.