BOSTON – A federal judge sentenced a Florida man to prison Monday for stealing tuition and deposits from families throughout the U.S. who planned to send their children to sports camps at Curry College in Milton and Northeastern University in Boston, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Mehdi Belhassan, 53, of Tampa, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge William G. Young to 30 months in prison and two years of supervised release. Belhassan was also ordered to pay $575,427 in restitution and forfeit $443,346.
He was convicted of two counts of wire fraud after a six-day jury trial in October.
Belhassan was arrested and charged in March 2021. A grand jury indicted him on two counts of wire fraud for taking payments of $350 and $615 from two Massachusetts victims.
Belhassan ran MB Sports Camp at Curry College
The indictment said Belhassan operated MB Sports Camp at Curry College between 2013 and 2018. According to authorities,in the summer of 2019, Belhassan collected tuition or deposits from families, even though Curry College told him in September 2018 that he would not be able to use its campus in 2019 after he stopped paying the college.
In April 2019, Belhassan told families that the 2019 camp would be held at Northeastern University, even though he had no contract with the school, according to media accounts.
Boston officials told Belhassan that he could not have his camp anywhere in Boston because he lacked the appropriate permits, but he continued to promote the camp and collect money from families, prosecutors said. On July 1, 2019, Belhassan sent an email to families saying the camp was canceled.
More than 300 families lost money in sports camp scam
Belhassan collected tuition and deposit payments from more than 300 families in Massachusetts and across the United States, as well as advance payments of $191,000 from an online payment company and a commercial finance company, authorities said.
Belhassan used a Texas payment services company to collect money from parents, authorities said. The company also bought registrations worth $121,124 in March 2019, the indictment said.
To get money from a cash advance company, Belhassan provided a forged contract showing Curry College agreed to host the sports camp, along with the false signature of a Curry College administrator, authorities said.
While Belhassan told families he would try to refund their money, he had already spent most of it on “various personal expenses, including vacations, casinos and adult entertainment,” authorities said.