Opening statements made in Maad fraud trial

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Nezar ''Mike'' Maad either lied to qualify for government-backed loans and other financing, or he was a self-made businessman who made unintentional errors, according to opening statements Tuesday in the Anchorage businessman's fraud trial.

''Mike made mistakes. I'll tell you that right now,'' federal defender Rich Curtner told jurors in U.S. District Court. ''He's not a trained accountant.''

Maad, former owner of Frontier Printing Services, is charged with two counts of falsifying loan applications, one count of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to the government. The business closed in December, three days after Maad was arrested.

Before seating the jury, U.S. District Judge James Singleton Jr. carefully questioned a pool of 73 prospective jurors about any bias against Arabs or the Middle East. Maad was born in Damascus, Syria.

He and his wife, Joanne, received widespread community sympathy after someone damaged equipment at their print shop and wrote ''We hate Arabs'' on a wall about 10 days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

No charges have been filed with regard to the damage. Joanne Maad, who attended the trial with more than a dozen supporters, has not been accused of any crime.

The alleged fraud was discovered while the FBI was investigating the damage as a hate crime. That investigation was later closed. Maad and his wife were not charged with causing the damage.

In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. attorney Dan Cooper said Maad inflated his business worth to get a $242,000 loan from Northrim Bank that was guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Cooper said Maad also misrepresented his assets to get a $15,000 line of credit, as well as financing for new equipment from a leasing company.

Cooper said Maad made false statements on the SBA application by failing to reveal his 1986 bankruptcy filing and two shoplifting convictions. Cooper showed jurors projected images of SBA forms that ask applicants if they have ever filed for bankruptcy or been convicted of crimes. Maad answered ''no'' in each case.

In his opening statement, Curtner described Maad as an active member of the community and vice president of Bridge Builders, a local group promoting diversity.

Curtner described Maad as a self-taught man who didn't have a business degree but worked hard to expand his printing business, which eventually employed 17 people. Curtner also showed digital images, including a list of numerous loans from Northrim bank that Maad paid off over the years.

''He did have a couple of bumps in the road. He did declare bankruptcy,'' Curtner said. He said Maad ''checked the wrong boxes'' but never intended to mislead anyone about the bankruptcy or the shoplifting convictions.

The trial was set to continue Wednesday.

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