Wafa Abboud, 51, of Merrick, New York, was found guilty this week of embezzling nearly $1 million from the nonprofit organization Human First. Abboud was on trial for two weeks and was not allowed by her lawyer to testify on her behalf. Two of her co-conspirators have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Abboud could face a maximum of 45 years in jail if prosecuted to the highest extent.
About Human First
Human First was founded in 2001, and their website states that they want to serve the developmentally disabled communities of New York City and Long Island. They describe themselves as a “multicultural” agency and wish to build safe and positive relationships and environments with those that suffer from developmental disabilities.
They have over 400 staff members across the NYC and Long Island area and serve more than 1,400 families. They offer things like support services, day habilitation, after-school and recreational programs, respite services for caretakers, and more.
Apparently, Abboud replaced her husband as CEO of Human First after their divorce, and this is where she was able to get the power and pull to funnel so much money into her own pocket. Her money scams ran from the beginning of 2011 until March of 2016, when her actions were discovered and she was fired.
The Scams Abboud Pulled
Among the crimes Abboud was found guilty of, she apparently assigned herself a nearly half-million salary to help pay for her mortgage without board approval, something that is never allowed.
She ran two different ‘kickback’ schemes with Marcelle Bailey and Rami Taha where she would pay each a monthly ‘consultants’ fee. Abboud would receive half this money for herself, and give the other half to the ‘consultant’.
Both of these people have already pled guilty and admitted their part in the crime.
What Did the Money Buy?
In court, Abboud painted herself as a single mother of 3 doing the best she could with what little she had. Her $480,000 unapproved salary raises questions on that.
The money she funneled into various accounts paid for a luxury Disney vacation for her and her family, various spa trips, and even some plastic surgery. She was able to get tickets to the Broadway show “Newsies” with her ill-gotten charity money, and would regularly make wire transfers with it.
A judge denied her request to reopen the trial and let her testify on her own behalf but did appoint a new layer for her to talk with. She is expected to face sentencing soon.