The following is a news release from the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.
BATON ROUGE - A fugitive fraud suspect on the run for nearly three years is in custody in Louisiana facing felony charges including theft and bank fraud. Enforcement agents with the Louisiana Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) arrested 26-year old Ardel Youssef, wanted for his suspected participation in a series of bank frauds totaling nearly $200,000 in 2007 and 2009.
Youssef's alleged criminal activity is connected to a company named ZBR Ahlmar Inc., doing business as Canal Junction, a tobacco products retailer. Youssef owned the company with his mother, 45-year old Huwiata Youssef. Criminal allegations date to 2007 when ATC investigators received complaints that the Youssefs had issued thousands of dollars of worthless checks to tobacco wholesale dealers. The 2007 investigation uncovered an elaborate fraud scheme against several victims including four banks. The Youssefs were suspected of targeting the banks with a check kiting scheme to acquire the money to purchase property for their business and to stock it with tobacco products.
However, by the time the arrest warrants were issued, the Youssefs had relocated and could not be found.
In 2009, the Alexandria Police Department identified Ardel Youssef as the suspect in a felony theft case involving the purchase of telephone calling cards using worthless checks totaling $20,000. However, Youssef fled the Alexandria area before police could arrest him.
On Wednesday, January 27, 2010, ATC enforcement agents received information that Ardel Youssef had boarded a plane at JFK International Airport in New York headed for Shreveport. Youssef was on the plane and ATC agents, assisted by Shreveport Regional Airport Police, arrested him shortly after it landed.
"Ardel Youssef's pattern of behavior suggests that he was returning to Louisiana to resume his criminal enterprise," said ATC Commissioner Murphy Painter. "I am proud of the work by all agencies involved to get this suspect off the streets and bring this crime spree to an end."
Ardel Youssef was booked into the Caddo Parish Correctional Center on multiple charges of theft, issuing worthless checks and bank fraud.
Huwiata Youssef is still being sought for her suspected participation in these crimes. Investigators ask anyone with information on her location to call ATC at 225-925-4041 or their local law enforcement agency.