David Stone
Ammar Awawdeh, seen here in an undated Facebook post, faces up to 25 years in prison, accused of what may be Roosevelt Island's worst theft ever.
Ammar Awawdeh, seen here in an undated Facebook post, faces up to 25 years in prison, accused of what may be Roosevelt Island's worst theft ever.

The ugliest crimes can wear a mask of civility, neighborliness, clean-cut and approachable. It may make detection harder in the vein of "...I never thought he (or she) was capable of..." Ammar Awawdeh, known well to most who've frequented Bread & Butter Market, "the deli," spent last night incarcerated on Rikers Island, accused by the Queens D.A. of just such a crime.

Michelle Carter, a multiple amputee confined to a wheelchair, was once a fixture on Roosevelt Island, not always a pleasant one.

Police escorted her from Gristedes many times when her aggressive panhandling drove paying customers away. Same story at the Subway Station. But she found welcoming space in front of "the deli," renamed Bread & Butter Market, a few years back.

When we reported on her in February, 2017, she'd left her apartment in Section 8 subsidized housing on River Road. Millions in cash came her way after her lawyer negotiated a settlement with the MTA over her being hit by an F Train. 

Carter won $3.4 million and should've been set for life, but something led her to making a deal with Bread & Butter Market, according to a story published today in the New York Daily News.

John Annese at The Daily News writes, "Carter... entrusted a $799,000 check in October 2015 to Ammar Awawdeh, 27, who co-owned a deli on Roosevelt Island with his father, Yaser Awawdeh, 58. Carter, who had no bank account, thought Awawdeh would use the money to run a tab at his deli, so she could buy cartons of cigarettes to resell."

Bread & Butter Market was a frequent hangout for Michelle Carter.
Bread & Butter Market was a frequent hangout for Michelle Carter.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Big crimes may take a village too.

"A band of soulless scammers turned a homeless amputee’s legal windfall into their own $1.5 million jackpot," Queens prosecutors told reporters. 

The soulless scammers: "A bodega owner, his dad, a bank manager and two other men allegedly grabbed the money from 62-year-old Michelle Carter." 

The "bodega" is our own Bread & Butter Market, once known as "M&D Deli" or locally as simply "the deli."

These are our neighbors, a family business that's operated on Main Street since Island House was built.

Prosecutors say Awawdeh used the cash to pay for his wedding, honeymoon and bachelor party as well as gambling trips. He explained that he spent the money on instructions from a friend of Carter's.

“Michelle was OK with it,” he claimed.

According to the criminal complaint filed before his arrest, Awawdeh took his cut because “he was 23 years old with plans to get married in a few weeks with no money.”

His father allegedly used his share for a new car and wholesale jewelry.

But it didn't stop there.

When Carter received the last check from her settlement, $886,000, she stashed it in a Bible she carried in her wheelchair. In January, 2016, she found the money missing and told an Amtrak police officer in Penn Station. As we reported at the time, it was assumed that someone grabbed it in Penn Station.

But not according Queens prosecutors who say that Awawdeh got his hands on that check too as well as the Bible, "and, aided by Anas Ali, 32, a Chase bank manager from Staten Island, deposited the check into the account of another bodega in Queens, owned by 30-year-old Brooklyn resident Salah Omairat."

Ali's cut is alleged to have been $20,000.

Ammar Awawdeh, if convicted, faces up to 25 years in jail. Bail was set for $100,000.

 The Daily thanks Frank Farance for the tip on this story.