(CBS/AP) BANGOR, Maine - A Canadian man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for a scheme in which he bilked elderly American women out of tens of thousands of dollars by telling them their grandchild or other relative was in trouble and desperately needed money.
Nour-El-Dean Mouneimneh, 21, of Quebec apologized in U.S. District Court in Bangor on Monday "to everyone who got harmed by my actions." However, The Bangor Daily News reported that he did not give federal prosecutors specifics on how the operation worked.
The scheme involved someone, usually a man in their 20s, making a phone call to an elderly female to say their grandson or younger relative had been arrested or was in an accident. The caller would then say the person needed money for medical bills or a lawyer, then instruct the victim to wire the money to the area where the relative had been jailed or injured.
Mouneimneh said he was a low-level participant in the scheme who just collected the money. He said he had minimal knowledge of how the scheme worked, and said he didn't want to cooperate with prosecutors because he feared the repercussions when he returned to Canada.
A federal judge expressed skepticism that Mouneimneh only played a minimal role, adding that the defendant had the knowledge, skill and opportunity to pull off and benefit from the scam.
Mouneimneh was also ordered to pay more than $116,000 in restitution. About $104,000 of the money was found in a car that Mouneimneh was traveling in when he was arrested.
A co-defendant, Michael Angelo Giuffrida, plead guilty this year and will be sentenced at a later date.