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Big Money Trail Seen in O.C. Family's Arrest

Officials say the bail bond agency operators moved large amounts overseas for six years. Coercion of clients using 'thugs' is also alleged.

September 17, 2004|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Authorities say they are tracking large amounts of money allegedly moved overseas in the last six years by the Orange County operators of a bail bond agency who were arrested this week.

A task force of Orange County police agencies is investigating American Liberty Bail Bonds, operated by Adnan "Dan" Yousef, his wife and three sons. The Yousefs have shuttled large amounts of funds and cash -- perhaps millions of dollars -- out of the country since 1998, when they began operating the company, Deputy Dist. Atty. Nick Thompson said Thursday.

"They moved a large amount of money through banks in the last six years. The amounts are inconsistent with what you'd expect from revenue generated by a bail bond agency," he said.

It is not known where the money came from, nor to whom it went, authorities said.

Investigators have discovered at least 30 and perhaps as many as 50 bank accounts controlled by the Yousefs, Thompson said. Authorities said they seized more than $700,000 in cash and 50 firearms when they searched the Yousefs' La Habra home, their business office in Whittier and 13 more locations Wednesday.

In a separate investigation by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Adnan Yousef's wife, Rayka, was indicted on one count of lying to a customs inspector last year when she misreported the amount of cash she was carrying before boarding a flight to the Middle East.

ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said Rayka Yousef, 58, told the inspector at Los Angeles International Airport that she had $5,000, but a search revealed almost $52,000.

In the Orange County investigation, the Yousefs and two employees were charged with counts that include conspiracy, embezzlement, kidnapping and working as an unlicensed bail agent. Adnan Yousef, 55, was being held on $5-million bail. Son Ameer, 19, was being held on $1-million bail. Bail for his other sons -- Tarek, 20, and Monther, 18 -- was set at $100,000 and $750,000, respectively.

The two employees -- Richard Watson Jr., 38, of La Habra and Marc Quarles, 44, of Huntington Beach -- were each being held on $500,000 bail.

Fullerton Police Sgt. Steve Matson said Watson and Quarles worked as "thug enforcers" for the Yousefs.

Authorities said American Liberty came to their attention when it appeared that the company offered discounts to high-risk arrestees and then coerced them to become bail clients, sometimes kidnapping them. A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said authorities believe the Yousefs may have used their clients to transport money.

In one case, Thompson said, the friend of a Buena Park man who had been arrested called American Liberty for information about bail services. The company took the arrestee's name, but no agreement was signed, Thompson said.

Unbeknown to the friend, the arrestee's girlfriend had arranged for another agency to bail him out and paid the $3,000 fee so that bond could be posted. A few days later, Ameer Yousef, Watson and a third man showed up at the Buena Park's man apartment and said they had an arrest warrant for him, Thompson said.

"They handcuffed him and put him in a police-style car and took him to their Whittier office," Thompson said. "They threatened to take him back to jail unless he agreed to substitute American Liberty for his bail agency. When he agreed, they took him home."

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