Federal judge sentences wife in Florence Co. COVID-19 fraud scheme to 1 year in prison

Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 1:08 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2023 at 5:12 PM EDT
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) – A Florence County woman who was part of a scheme that took federal money from those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic was sentenced on Tuesday.

A federal judge sentenced Nariman Masoud to 12 months and 1 day in the Bureau of Prisons. Once she is released from prison she will be on court-ordered supervision for two years. There is no parole in the federal system.

Along with the federal prison time, Masoud was also ordered to pay $604,074 in restitution.

Masoud, her husband Mohammad Farraj and other family members pleaded guilty to devising a scheme to defraud and obtain under false pretenses through wire fraud.

Mohammad Farraj, Nariman Masoud
Mohammad Farraj, Nariman Masoud(Source: Florence County Detention Center)


Evidence showed that those involved in the scheme submitted applications in four states – Arizona, New York, Florida and South Carolina – using personal information of other people and receive fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance and expanded pandemic unemployment insurance benefits.

They would have funds loaded onto prepaid debit cards issued in the names of the third parties, then they would use the cards to withdraw money.

Farraj and Masoud’s role was to obtain people’s personal information, create fraudulent unemployment insurance applications, recruit others into the scheme, withdraw money from accounts and place the money into their bank accounts and cryptocurrency accounts.

The couple and their family members took close to $450,000, according to the district attorney’s office.

A judge sentenced Farraj to five months in prison in April.

Masoud’s sentencing was postponed after details about an alleged grocery store incident surfaced. Her team asked for more time to gather information on the incident and determine the potential impact it could have on her sentencing.