U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced on Friday that following a five week trial, a federal jury has convicted Steve S. Jabar, of Tonawanda, NY, and Deborah Bowers, of Clarence, NY, of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“As established by today’s verdicts, these defendants stole UN Funds intended to promote good works in a part of the world that desperately needed assistance, said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “The facts that the defendants took such money to pay personal bills makes these convictions particularly noteworthy.”
IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen said: “At the very least, as citizens living in a charitable society, we expect that money intended for humanitarian causes actually helps the people it was intended to help and not those who divert it for their own purposes. A jury has now found that Mr. Jabar and Ms. Bowers took money that was supposed to promote women’s rights in Iraq, used it for their personal benefit, and lied to law enforcement in order to keep their crimes hidden. They are now held accountable.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marie P. Grisanti and Mary Ellen Kresse, who prosecuted the case, stated that the defendants founded a not for profit organization OKI, Opportunities for Kids International, Inc. In June 2004, Jabar and Bowers, through OKI, applied for and received a $500,000 grant from United Nations to create, maintain and operate a radio station in Iraq. The mission of the radio station was to further women’s rights issues in Iraq.
Within 24 hours of receiving a portion of the grant money, the defendants began to divert some of the funding for their own personal use. Jabar and Bowers diverted more than $65,000 for their own personal use. Jabar used some of the funding to pay off personal debts, including the payment of property taxes owed on his residence and business, as well as mortgage, utility, credit card payments and personal loan payments. Bowers also utilized some of the funding to pay personal credit card debt and make mortgage payments.
During the investigation, the defendants made false statement to investigator with the Internal Revenue Service in order to conceal with criminal behavior.