Pair plead guilty to conspiring to transport $97,000 in stolen cash
A pair of New York men stopped for speeding by a Wythe County sheriff’s deputy who later discovered more than $97,000 in stolen cash in the vehicle pleaded guilty last week in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.
Zeidan Hamad Saado, 20, and Ali Salim Mberwa, 21, both of Buffalo, each pleaded guilty last week to conspiring to transport in interstate commerce money with a value of $5,000 or more, knowing it had been stolen.
At sentencing, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and or a fine of up to $250,000.
According to court documents, on Jan. 28, at approximately 3 a.m., a Wythe County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a Toyota Prius driven by Saado for going 89 mph in a 65 mph zone. At the time, Mberwa was a passenger in the car and a minor passenger, “D.P.” was also present.
The deputy smelled marijuana and observed marijuana on the floorboard of the vehicle. In addition, the deputy determined the vehicle’s license plate was registered to a Mitsubishi rather than a Toyota Prius.
Saado told the deputy there was more marijuana in the car. When the deputy opened the rear door, he observed a pile of cash under the front seat. The bills were in $100 denominations and were bundled almost exclusively in “Loomis” bank bands.
Altogether, there was at least $97,340 of stolen cash in the car.
Investigators learned that D.P. had been living with D.P’s mother and D.P.’s mother’s boyfriend in Florida. D.P. knew the mother’s boyfriend had a large amount of cash stored in a safe, and asked Saado and Mberwa to travel from New York to Florida to steal the money from the safe. D.P. agreed to pay a portion of the money to Saado for driving and a portion to Mberwa for his role in the scheme.
The trio traveled from New York to Florida, went to the door of D.P.’s mother’s home and engaged her in conversation to distract her while D.P. went inside and took cash from the boyfriend’s safe. After D.P. took the money, the trio began their journey back to New York before they were stopped in Virginia.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Zachary T. Lee and Whit D. Pierce are prosecuting the case for the United States.