University of Minnesota professor found guilty of shorting retirement balances to cheat ex-wife
Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before convicting a University of Minnesota professor of falsifying the value of his retirement nest egg in an attempt to cheat his former wife out of her share.
Massoud Amin, 57, was convicted Friday of one count of attempted theft by swindle over $35,000 and two counts of aggravated forgery.
The jurors found several of what the law calls “aggravating factors” in the case that opens the way for prosecutors to seek a sentence harsher than what state guidelines recommend, including multiple incidents of theft by swindle over a long period of time and potential losses of more than $100,000.
“We are pleased by the jury’s quick decision,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. “Not only was he trying to cheat his wife out of what was rightfully hers, but he also was deceiving the court in his filings. Apparently, because he was one of the top people in his field, he thought he could outsmart police and the courts. He was wrong, and we will now ask the judge for a tough sentence.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 9. His attorney, Aaron Thom, said that his client is disappointed with the verdicts and that he see grounds for an appeal. In the meantime, Thom continued, “we certainly hope “ Amin can avoid prison time.
Amin is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the director of the Technological Leadership Institute.
The University “is aware of the court decision, and will be reviewing the matter,” a spokesperson said.
Amin has been with the university since March 2003 and is an expert in smart grids and infrastructure security. He has professional and consulting experience with McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, NASA, Rockwell International and various federal agencies, including the departments of Defense and Energy.
According to the criminal complaint and trial testimony:
On July 12, 2016, Minneapolis police responded to a call from Amin’s former wife, who said the professor had offered forged documents to her divorce attorney.
The documents, from Amin’s retirement accounts associated with his employment with the University of Minnesota showed a value of $745,012. Amin’s ex-wife said she believed the amount was significantly higher.
Amin attempted to reduce the value of the marital assets in his retirement accounts by offering several forged financial statements related to one account and intentionally omitting information related to a second retirement account. The investigation revealed that Amin’s wife could have lost $353,649 in assets.
Her attorney subpoenaed the financial service organization that administers the accounts and learned that the actual value of Amin’s accounts was $891,116.44.
A consultant for the financial service organization testified that the statements offered by Amin did not originate from the organization, and a certified fraud examiner also testified that the statements were falsified.
A Hennepin County trial referee found that Amin provided the false statement to support a lower and inaccurate value of his retirement accounts in an attempt to conceal his assets.
In a legal complication for the professor growing out of the fraud case, Amin had weapons possession charges against him suspended in January after he agreed to pay $500 and sell 14 pistols he bought over a 17-day period in the summer of 2017.
If Amin avoids being charged with a weapons-related offense for one year, the seven gross-misdemeanor charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm will be dismissed, according to the agreement between Amin and the Minneapolis city attorney’s office.
Amin made the purchases even though he knew he had been charged in June 2017 with aggravated forgery.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482