MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Ahead of their second federal court appearance Wednesday, June 15, WMBF News is still trying to get to the bottom of the FBI raid that led to electronic benefits transfer fraud charges for three people.
Thursday morning, federal warrants were served to the owner of two motels in Myrtle Beach, the 7 Brothers and The Virginian motels. Sherif Alkassar, 36; Lesley Alkassar, 38; and Katie Polson, 29, were taken into federal custody.
Sherif Alkassar was also charged with mail fraud and making false statements relating to naturalization and citizenship.
FBI search warrants released Tuesday listed items taken in the raid, such as laptop computers, calendars, documents like birth certificates and social security cards.
All three suspects are due back in court Wednesday at 10 a.m., at the federal court house in Greenville.
While this case is still very much under investigation, the circumstances raise a lot of questions.
The charges are ones the former assistant director for the FBI's Criminal investigations Division, Chris Swecker, said the bureau wouldn't normally investigate.
"In this particular case, I understand it's EBT fraud, electronic benefit transfer card, government benefit cards and possibly wire fraud. Well, those cases aren't often worked by the FBI unless they rise to the level of pretty large losses, $100,000 or above. So, I think there's a likelihood that there's some access to some bigger, broader case here," Swecker explained.
While at this point there is nothing directly pointing this case to anything other than fraud, Swecker says in the past EBT fraud cases have been linked to funding terrorism.
'Where they're used, you know, they buy these small operators, small businesses, buy EBT cards for cash, and then they go out and buy merchandise at big box stores and they can stock their convenience stores, etc.," he said. "So there's a scam there that's often used by terrorist organizations. Not saying that's what's happening in this case, but it's certainly something to consider."
While officials have not said why court documents are sealed in this case, Swecker did talk about past cases where court documents were sealed.
"Sealed proceedings like that are used sometimes to protect sources of information," he said. "Sometimes it's such a sensitive investigation. For example, a terrorist case, a terrorism financing case, that type of case where they don't want to compromise the investigation but they have to move forward with some court proceedings, so they seal the courtroom."