From the Grand Jury Indictment that a plugged-in reader delivered back in 2010:

Beginning at a time unknown to the Grand Jury, but no later than January 2006, and continuing through at least March 2009, MAHER TALAL MUHAWIEH knowingly and intentionally devised a material scheme and artifice to defraud lenders, and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises and omissions.

To execute and in furtherance of the scheme, MUHAWIEH solicited and caused others to solicit at least $25 million from at least 80 prospective lenders based upon (a) promises and representations that the lenders’ funds would be used to purchase and to renovate specific properties in San Francisco, California, that would then be sold at a profit, and (b) promises and representations that MUHAWIEH would thereby achieve regular and high rates of return for the lenders with limited risk.

In truth, MUHAWIEH did not intend to use the lenders’ funds in the manner that he promised and represented to the lenders, and instead misappropriated and converted those funds to his own benefit and the benefit of others without the knowledge and authorization of the lenders. In fact, and contrary to his promises and representations to lenders, MUHAWIEH instead used the lenders’ funds to pay interest on loans from other lenders, for personal expenses and to invest in retail businesses located in San Francisco, California.

Having pleaded guilty to wire fraud this past October, and in custody since September 2010, Maher Muhawieh has been sentenced to 6 ½ years in federal prison.
United States Of America Versus Maher Talal Muhawieh [SocketSite]
Two More Muhawieh Comps Of Yore Head For The Courthouse Steps [SocketSite]
S.F. developer sentenced to 6 1/2 years for fraud [SFGate]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by anon

    “Prosecutors said Muhawieh obtained more than $28 million from at least 80 investors between January 2006 and March 2009″
    Really just guilty of “timing fraud.” If he would have run this scheme from 2004 to 2007 he would have made him and his investors a mint regardless of his skimming and would have walked away rich. But he got into the ponzi scheme late, when only suckers venture in, and they are the ones that lose big.

  2. Posted by anon2

    Maher Muhawieh’s cousin is the district attorney Bassam Totah here in SF. Totah also had some real estate dealings in this matter. There is 1 lawsuit pending in his name-check it out. He claims to be a “victim”. Who do you believe?
    Regarding Muhawieh’s brother being a straw buyer. He was actually listed on 3 properties with Maher Muhawieh and claimed to be an officer of his brother’s “fake” investment company (Olive Tree Financial). Also he claimed to be into real estate and loans himself. Muhawieh’s sister was also listed on a property as well as another cousin of his that were supposedly owned by Maher Muhawieh. Muhawieh and his brother were both granted bankruptcy clearance while Maher Muhawieh was incarcerated and the departments were notified ahead of time about these criminals and still let it happen. There was also another legal action against the family business that Muhawieh won while being incarcerated.
    There are several businesses operating in SF that were opened with victim’s money- Grub, Yotopia, Zaytoon, Urban Burger, Phat Philly’s, Madkat, Subs, Inc., Bite Me Sandwiches & Walla Walla’s Smoke Shop. There were others as well that have changed hands since. Several expensive cars were bought for his family as well as him giving the victim’s money away freely to some of his family members and friends as well.
    Muhawieh is so cold blooded and coniving that he went after some of his victims that he knew had received settlements from the loss of loved ones and tragic accidents. In some of these cases, when he took the victim’s last dollars, he just vanished and was not able to be contacted. In some cases, the victim’s were talked to as if they were the criminals by authorities. Corruption? I wonder!

  3. Posted by anon$random

    actually, his family (at least for the most part) were victims in this. his father lost his business and the building he ran out of it for many years after his son put hard money loans against the building. nice thing to do to your parents.

  4. Posted by tipster

    ^Um, you can’t “put” hard money loans against a relative’s business or buildings.
    The relative has to sign the loan, and was therefore aware of the risk of loss could very well have been a partner in the scheme, not to say that they could have also just been helping some kid they wanted to succeed, and been relatively oblivious to the other issues.
    My only point here is that, just because they lost a building and business doesn’t prove they were a “victim”.

  5. Posted by anon2

    Hey, get your facts STRAIGHT. His father did NOT lose the business. He just transferred it to his other son’s name, Isaac’s Market to try to avoid a legal action that was against Maher Muhawieh and the store at the time. The store used to be called Ming’s Market at 22nd & Folsom. It is now called Isaac’s Market and STILL up and running. Please get your facts in order before posting here! We don’t need any more lies or cover ups. We’ve heard enough!

  6. Posted by 48yo hipster

    Como se dicé douche bag en Arabic?
    Cousemack (well, that’s worse ;)

  7. Posted by anon$random

    don’t get your panties in a bunch anon2. the guy’s dad got screwed on the deal, that’s all i’m saying. lies, coverups? whatever bro.

  8. Posted by anon2

    anon$random- How did his father get screwed over when he’s still running the same store @ 22nd & Folsom that he’s always been running? Plus, the father seems to be totally supportive to this day of Maher. So why feel sorry for him? The family reaped at some point in time from the victim’s money. You must know this! Why show any empathy towards any of them? You must not have been affected by the criminal Maher and his scheme!

  9. Posted by JayA

    Anon, you have way too much time on your hands to be writing about people. Get your facts straight as you are running your own scheme here! Seems to me like you are 100% accountable for your investment and loss. You probably made tons of money was it just not enough? People keep pointing fingers at investors for going downhill but in reality people like you who are incompetent and lazy to do their homework. I acually feel sorry for the guy if he had you as one of his clients.

  10. Posted by anon2

    JayA- Your comments are pretty stupid and unfounded.

  11. Posted by Rex

    Only 6.5 years?? If he had held up a store for pocket change, he would have gone to prison for longer.
    No wonder there’s so much white-collar crime. It pays! Effectively, the 6.5 year sentence will net him the equivalent of $5M/year (and with “good behavior”, I’m sure he’ll be out in 3).

  12. Posted by azzez

    Do you know how long the authorities were watching him before he was arrested?

  13. Posted by anon2

    The authorities were watching him almost a year before he was arrested.

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