Bad check triggers five felony counts for man

Jihad Anthony Zogheib may have messed with the wrong people.

Zogheib is being prosecuted for writing a bad check for $300,000 to two men who loaned him money and who have connections to Clark County District Attorney David Roger.

Zogheib faces five felony counts, including theft, check fraud and conspiracy, though he has paid off the loan and his former attorney cut a deal with the victims that was supposed to lead to the criminal case's dismissal.

But Roger said the prosecution is going forward, despite the request by the victims to drop the case, because of Zogheib's lengthy criminal history of bank and check fraud.

Roger also said there are other victims that may lead to additional criminal charges against the 45-year-old.

Zogheib, who has a penchant for high-stakes gambling, borrowed $250,000 in February from TNA Las Vegas, a business consulting corporation operated by David Thistle and Lloyd Neher, for an alleged real estate investment.

Thistle and his attorney and brother-in-law, Pete Christiansen, are friends of Roger. Christiansen did not return a call requesting comment.

According to testimony Thursday at a preliminary hearing, Zogheib wrote a postdated $300,000 check to pay back the loan with interest.

Testimony showed Zogheib didn't have the money to pay off the loan and for months strung along Thistle and Neher by offering titles for exotic cars and a yacht as collateral.

At one point Zogheib handed over a title for a 2006 Carver yacht valued at $380,000, only to quickly obtain a new title from a government agency after reporting the original title missing.

Prosecutors alleged Zogheib also manipulated bank records and documents to try and convince Thistle and Neher that he had $3 million on hold in a JP Morgan Chase account. However, a bank representative testified that at no time did the defendant ever have that much money in the bank.

A Wells Fargo representative also testified that Zogheib had used a flaw in the bank's system that allows anyone to skirt a hold on money simply by transferring the money to another account within the bank.

"A hold doesn't follow" between accounts, the Wells Fargo representative said.

For instance, the bank would put a hold on a large deposited check to verify that funds were sufficient to cover the amount, a 12-hour process. While that was being checked, the deposited money could be moved freely to another account in the bank and then withdrawn as cash.

The two bank representatives noted that Zogheib was constantly moving large sums of money between accounts and making large withdrawals, including one instance on Feb. 24 when he withdrew more than $500,000 from a Chase account.

Zogheib's former attorney, Robert Draskovich, testified at Thursday's hearing before Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson that he had reached an agreement with Christiansen that, if Zogheib paid $100,000 to the victims and handed over titles to a 1999 Ferrari and the Carver yacht, the cases would be dropped.

"It was my understanding that both the titles, as well as possession of the car and the boat, as well as money, had to be proffered and received before the criminal case would be dismissed and the civil case would be dismissed," Draskovich said.

Prosecutor Michael Staudaher asked Draskovich why he believed the criminal case would be dropped because he cut a deal with Christiansen.

Draskovich said because it was Christiansen who initiated the prosecution of Zogheib through Roger.

Draskovich said he gave the money and titles to Christiansen sometime in June, but the criminal case was not dropped.

Zogheib's current defense attorney, Pat McDonald, asked Draskovich whether he had discussed the deal with prosecutors. Draskovich said he had tendered the money, titles and vehicles to Christiansen based on conversations with Roger and prosecutor Bernie Zadrowski, the former head of the bad check unit, who also said he never made a deal.

Roger and Staudaher both said they never had an agreement with Draskovich to drop the charges.

Roger said late Thursday that "Jihad is being prosecuted despite my familiarity with Mr. Thistle."

Roger said the victims in the case had asked that the criminal case not proceed, but "we are going to hold Jihad accountable for his actions."

Roger said that there are other victims of Zogheib and that he expects additional charges will be filed against the defendant.

Zogheib has a lengthy criminal history dating to 1992. He has been convicted several times in federal court in bad check cases, for bank fraud and passport fraud.

Court records show Zogheib has faced criminal prosecution in bad check cases in District Court in 2004 and 2008. Both cases ended without conviction.

The preliminary hearing is expected to continue today and spill into next week.

Once testimony is complete, Tobiasson will decide if prosecutors have presented enough evidence to send the case to trial in District Court.

Zogheib is being held at the Clark County Detention Center on $2 million bail.