A St. Paul man and his son are accused of conspiring to write more than $20,000 in bad checks over a three-day period to buy cigarettes and other items at two . Investigators say were then sold at a relative’s store in Minneapolis.
Ebrahim H. Al-Rwazek, 48, and his son, Ahmed Al-Rwazek, 23, also of St. Paul, each face two felony charges: theft by swindle, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, and issuing dishonored checks, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Here are the details, according to the criminal complaints against the two men.
Police departments in Fridley and Eagan were contacted by Sam’s Club stores in both cities in March and April 2009, alerting authorities that worthless checks totaling $20,127 were used to buy tobacco and other merchandise between Jan. 15-17, 2009.
The checks were written on a checking account at Guaranty Bank that Ebrahim Al-Rwazek opened with $100 in December 2008, according to court documents. Ebrahim then wrote a series of checks totaling $21,300 to his son, who deposited the worthless checks into his TCF Bank checking account.
Ahmed then wrote checks for cigarettes and other items to Sam’s Club, the complaint says.
When store officials learned that the checks were worthless, they attempted to contact Ahmed at the address listed on his checking account, sending certified letters that were all returned as unclaimed and undeliverable.
Months later, investigators tracked down Ahmed, who admitted writing the checks to Sam’s Club, but claimed that his father had written checks to him to pay for the purchase of cigarettes. Ahmed said he hadn’t received any letters from Sam’s Club but admitted that he knew his TCF checking account had been closed when he wrote the checks.
Ahmed told investigators that the cigarettes and other merchandise were used to establish inventory at a Minneapolis business owned by his sister, Pam’s General Store. He said the store is in his sister’s name, but that his father has power of attorney to conduct business there.
Ebrahim Al-Rwazek was charged in 2009 with first-degree arson in connection with a September 2005 fire that destroyed the Shell station at 3830 Highway 13 in Eagan.
An investigation by a forensic auditor determined that Ebrahim—despite his claims to the contrary—owned the station, that he was diverting cash from the business to pay for personal expenses, and that he was having trouble paying creditors, including the vendor who provided gasoline to the station.
Ebrahim Al-Rwazek also had an insurance policy on the station, which would pay him $600,900 for the building, $100,000 for personal property and $259,900 for additional buildings on the property.
Both Ebrahim and Ahmed Al-Rwazek are scheduled to make first appearances on the theft by swindle and dishonored check charges July 11 in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.