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Federal judge sends Tucson woman to prison for defrauding Syrian refugees

gavel in a courtroom
Michał Chodyra/Getty Images
Gavel in courtroom.

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that a Tucson woman who admitted to committing bank fraud against refugees will go to prison for just over a year, followed by three years of probation.

From late 2016 to August 2017, 34-year-old Nidal Awawdah befriended several Syrian refugees in Tucson. She helped them with translations, adjusting to life and establishing themselves in the community.

Awawdah used this position of trust to rack up thousands of dollars in unauthorized purchases under credit card accounts she created by stealing their identities. At least one refugee’s identity was also used to receive student loans.

The FBI stepped in to investigate, and Awawdah ultimately pleaded guilty before a federal judge in January of this year.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.