By Christina Carrega
The owners of a Roosevelt Island bodega were busted for swindling over $1.5 million from a wheelchair-bound homeless woman and using the stolen cash to fund a lavish lifestyle, prosecutors announced on Thursday.
In 2005, Michelle Carter lost both of her legs when she fell into the path of an oncoming F train and has lived the majority of her life on the streets in a wheelchair.
Even after she sued the MTA and settled for $4 million, Carter remained homeless, according to a source familiar with the case.
“Her windfall, unfortunately, became the target of alleged scammers,” said Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “This kind of underhanded con is unacceptable and the defendants will be held accountable for these alleged crimes.”
In October 2015, Carter trusted Ammar Awawdeh, 27 and his father 58-year-old Yaser Awawdeh to cash one of her last settlement checks that totalled a little over $799,000, prosecutors said.
Ammar Awawdeh allegedly went to a Chase bank location in the Rockaways where his friend Anas Ali, 32, was a bank manager. Awawdeh allegedly deposited the funds into the bodega’s business account.
Carter, 62, suffers from mental illness and was caught on camera smoking marijuana on a subway train in February 2017.
Instead of giving Carter, the money the son withdrew $200,000 to pay for gambling trips, his wedding, a bachelor party in Las Vegas and a honeymoon in Turks and Caicos, prosecutors said.
In January, 2016, Carter realized her very last check that she had tucked away in her Bible along with her other belongings in her wheelchair was missing. Carter went to a Bank of America branch to have another check issued and when she was told it was already cashed, she reported it missing, prosecutors said.
The investigation found that the son again deposited the check into a business account in the Bronx where Salah Omairat distributed funds to himself and his brothers in Brooklyn and the Awawdeh father and son.
All of the accused thieves were charged with money laundering, grand larceny, conspiracy, criminal possession of stolen property and other charges, prosecutors said.
In the end, Carter only received $100,000, prosecutors said.