The American stepdaughter of ‘Michael Boghdadi Asaad’, one of the world’s most notorious conmen, has vowed to confront him in Sydney
A relentless life of crime has finally caught up with one of the world’s most notorious conmen who hoodwinked Australia for more than three decades after he fled the US and left his family to ‘starve to death’.
The serial swindler racked up a lengthy criminal rap sheet across Australia, including a conviction of heroin supply and multiple counts of fraud – in one case ripping off Centrelink, the national welfare agency, to the tune of $90,000.
The now 80-year-old arrived in the country in the late 1980s on a Canadian passport in the name of Rick Michaels – effectively making his 18-year crime spree in the US disappear.
He later conned authorities into giving him an Australian passport under the name of Michael Boghdadi Asaad, claiming he was born in Tasmania and that fire destroyed his original document.
In 2017, authorities finally figured out who he was – Egyptian-born lifetime crook Farouk Asaad – after he tried to claim an aged pension in a final attempt to scam Australia’s taxpayers.
But the renowned fraudster continued to fly under the radar of immigration officials – until now.
Daily Mail Australia understands Asaad is being held at Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney and is finally set to be deported after a multi-national criminal career spanning nearly 50 years.
His stepdaughter Heidi Kiernan, formally Heidi Asaad, told Daily Mail Australia from her home in Florida she will travel to Sydney to come face-to-face with the man who abandoned her and watch him get booted from the country.
‘I have never gotten over the hell he put me through, the hell he left me with, the broken promises and shattered heart. These wounds run deep… I have my passport ready,’ Ms Kiernan said.
The conman’s long list of criminal convictions include heroin supply and multiple counts of fraud. He is pictured with his Australian wife, Antoinette
Asaad’s stepdaughter Heidi Kiernan (pictured), formally Heidi Asaad, told Daily Mail Australia from her home in Florida she plans to travel to Australia to come face-to-face with the man who deserted her and watch him be booted from the country
Ms Kiernan and her private investigator Bill Hagler suspected Asaad had used an alias to regain entry to the US after he didn’t show up to a Sydney court in late 2017 over a hit-and-run driving offence.
But it is understood the elderly conman has been held at Villawood since May last year, when he tried to re-enter Australia on another fake passport.
I have never gotten over the hell he put me through… the broken promises and shattered heart. These wounds run deep.
‘I fell to my knees crying happy tears when I heard [Asaad had been detained],’ Ms Kiernan said.
‘Not only did he abandon and hurt my mother, he did me as well. I will never forgive. I am hoping to confront him in Villawood myself.’
Mr Hagler, a former bounty hunter who has captured some of America’s most wanted fugitives, describes Asaad as the ‘conman of the Western world’ and the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to fraud criminals.
‘He’s very, very smart and so slick. He can make every deal in the book,’ Mr Hagler told Daily Mail Australia.
‘He likes Australia because the laws are not as strict on white collar crimes as they are in the United States. He left [the US] when they started out handed out life sentences for the types of crimes he committed.’
Asaad married Ms Kiernan’s mother, Annette (pictured together), in 1971 – enabling the Egyptian national to stay in the US
Ms Kiernan (pictured as a child) said Asaad was her ‘daddy’ from the age of two until she was 17, when he abandoned her
Asaad was reportedly in and out of US prisons between 1971 and 1987 on charges ranging from bank fraud to embezzlement and passing fake cheques.
He married Ms Kiernan’s mother, Annette, in 1971, enabling the Egyptian national to remain in the US.
He is very, very smart and so slick – he can make every deal in the book.
Ms Kiernan claims Asaad added bigamy to his long list of crimes when in 1986, he wed then 21-year-old Antoinette Lahood at a Las Vegas chapel while still married to her mother.
Asaad met Antoinette’s father, Australian drug lord Harry Lahood, while behind bars at Washington State Prison the previous year, Ms Kiernan said.
When he was released from jail, Asaad left Ms Kiernan’s mother and moved Antoinette into their family home in Florida, secretly marrying her soon after.
Ms Kiernan is seen with her friend and private investigator Bill Hagler. They had suspected Asaad used an alias to regain entry to the US after he didn’t show up to a Sydney court in late 2017 over a hit-and-run driving offence
Asaad left Ms Kiernan’s mother (pictured together) and moved Antoinette into their family home in Florida, secretly marrying her soon after
‘I saw Antoinette in 1987 and I cried to her that [Asaad] was a married man, that I was his daughter and to have a heart. She didn’t tell me a word about them being married,’ Ms Kiernan said.
‘I was still receiving letters from [Asaad] in 1987… He’d sign the letters, “Love Daddy”.’
When a court awarded the Florida home to Ms Kiernan’s mother, Asaad fled the state – and with federal authorities hot on his heels over a range of fraud-related matters – soon boarded a plane to Australia.
He left the mother and daughter in Florida ‘to starve to death’, Mr Hagler said.
Asaad married Ms Kiernan’s mother, Annette, in 1971 (marriage certificate left) before wedding Antoinette Lahood in 1986
‘He’s very, very smart and so slick. He can make every deal in the book – he’s got nine lives,’ Mr Hagler said of Asaad (pictured)
Asaad’s Las Vegas wedding with Antoinette was a sham – a marriage he used to move to Australia where he would continue a life of crime, according to Ms Kiernan.
‘He likes Australia because the laws are not as strict on white collar crimes as they are in the United States.
‘He illegally married Antoinette while still married to my mother, to be able to stay in Australia… to begin his dirty deeds in your country,’ she said.
Antoinette and Asaad now have seven children together in Australia.
One, Michael Asaad Jr, made his own claim to notoriety in 2009 when he was filmed punching a reporter in the face as they were compiling a story on his family outside their home on the Gold Coast.
Ms Kiernan and Mr Hagler suspected Asaad returned the US after he didn’t show up to a Sydney court over a hit-and-run driving offence, which was captured on CCTV (pictured)
Asaad’s Las Vegas wedding with Antoinette was a sham – a marriage he used to move to Australia where he would continue a life of crime, according to Ms Kiernan (pictured with husband, Todd)
Meanwhile, in 1987, nearly two years after Asaad abandoned her, Ms Kiernan confronted him at a South Florida jail and asked if he ‘cared that she was broke and going hungry’.
During a heated discussion, Asaad vowed to ‘always be a part of her life’. It was a promise that was spectacularly broken.
The last time Ms Kiernan saw Asaad – who she had called ‘daddy’ from the age of two until she was 17 – was 28 years ago, when he travelled back to the US, likely on Rick Michaels’ passport.
‘I was still receiving letters from [Asaad] in 1987, the year I graduated high school. He’d sign the letters, “Love Daddy”,’ Ms Kiernan said
The last time Ms Kiernan (pictured in a recent photo) saw Asaad was 28 years ago, when he travelled back to the US, likely on Rick Michaels’ passport
‘In 1991, I saw him on the street. He was walking, holding hands with [Antoinette], who was pregnant – again. I ran to him, calling ”daddy!” He told me to go away. Very hurtful,’ Ms Kiernan said.
‘[Antoinette] has always known of my mother and me, but went through the fake marriage and had seven children – that your country paid for.
‘I still see him as daddy. His family… still consider me family. But, at the same time, daddy makes me feel like a scared little girl.’
HEIDI ASAAD CONFRONTS HER STEPFATHER IN JAIL
Heidi Kiernan (pictured as a child), formally Heidi Asaad, confronted her stepfather in jail in 1987, about two years after he abandoned her family
In 1987, I heard he was in jail in West Palm Beach. I was 18 and about to graduate high school. I was able to get through with my ID.
He didn’t know I was coming. To my surprise, he wasn’t waiting for me. Antoinette was sitting on the only little round stool, speaking to [Asaad], through a phone, as there was a glass between them.
She was pregnant. As soon as [Asaad] saw me behind her, he turned white. I bent over, yelled in her ear to get up. She replied, he owes me money. I told her to take a number b***h and pushed her to the floor, where she stayed. Crying.
I was screaming through the glass, that his wife and daughter need him. I asked if he even cared that I was broke and going hungry.
I cried ‘daddy’ over and over. I made such a ruckus, inmates came to his window and guards came to me. [Asaad] asked that I go home and come back when I calm down.
I then received a three-page letter from him. Which I still have.
Later, that same year, he came to my boyfriend’s house, where I had moved to. [He is] now my husband, Todd. He took us to lunch and promised me the world, a new car and money to help me get on my feet.
He also promised to always be a part of my life.
Ms Kiernan said Asaad (pictured left and right with her mother, Annette) ‘promised to always be a part of her life’. It was a promise never kept
In 1992, years after arriving in Australia, Asaad used a fake baptism form to obtain a birth certificate. A court later found that a fire he claimed destroyed his original certificate never happened.
He used the birth certificate to obtain a passport and, although he was convicted of a string of crimes, slipped under the radar of immigration authorities for decades to come.
In 1993, he was convicted of heroin dealing and served 11 months behind bars, according to Queensland Supreme Court documents.
Mr Hagler claimed it was Asaad’s connection to Harry Lahood that led him to the drug trade.
‘He agreed to become a mule in the drug business. Never before has this conman been involved in drugs. Normally a conman doesn’t get involved in drugs. He cons people – he cons banks,’ Mr Hagler said.
‘A new daddy appeared in 1971,’ Ms Kiernan captioned this photo of her stepfather, Michael Boghdadi Asaad, aka Farouk Asaad
Ms Kiernan (pictured as a young woman) said: ‘I still see him as daddy. His family… still consider me family. But, at the same time, daddy makes me feel like a scared little girl’
Asaad was convicted of a string of fraud-related offences stretching from 1994 to 2009, as well as several bail breaches, court documents state.
In 2002 at the age of 72, Asaad declared bankruptcy owing nearly $400,000, shortly before he set up a pizza restaurant on the Gold Coast.
In 2005 he was convicted of preparing to leave Australia as an undischarged bankrupt – as well as conducting business while bankrupt – and sentenced to three months jail.
He was later convicted of failing to declare bankruptcy to an exclusive Perth school which one of his sons attended in 2004, racking up a debt of $16,000. He served six months of a 12-month sentence.
In 2010, Asaad was jailed for nine months after failing to declare to businesses he was bankrupt, leaving them thousands of dollars out of pocket.
The Brisbane District Court heard at the time he lied to creditors about graduating from Harvard with an MBA, as well as working in executive positions with several US banks.
Daily Mail Australia understands Asaad is now being held at Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney and will finally be deported after an international criminal career spanning nearly 50 years
Ms Kiernan is pictured on her wedding day in 1989 with her lifetime friend and private investigator, Bill Hagler
Under his false identity, Asaad scammed $89,161 out of Centrelink between 2002 and 2009 in what prosecutors described as a ‘calculated, sophisticated and determined fraud’. He was sentenced to 13 month’s jail in 2016.
In 2017, when his application for an aged pension was rejected, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled Asaad wasn’t born in Australia, as he had claimed.
He told the tribunal his parents moved overseas when he was three years old and he had been looked after by a Lebanese family in the New South Wales town of Moree.
‘He was asked by the tribunal why he had such a strong accent, given that he was born in Australia,’ tribunal member Ron McCallum wrote in his decision at the time.
‘Mr Asaad said that his accent was because he lived on a farm at Moree with Arabic speaking people. Mr Asaad said that he did not go to school, and that he only learned to read and write when he was an adult.’
Ms Kiernan (pictured as a young woman) said: ‘[Antoinette] has always known of my mother and me, but went through the fake marriage and had seven children – that your country paid for’
Ms Kiernan said Asaad was the ‘only father she had’ from the age of two until she was 17. Pictured: She marries her partner Todd in 1989
Mr McCallum found Asaad did not meet the residency requirements for the aged pension.
The decision finally put him in the sights of the Department of Home Affairs, with Peter Dutton in late 2017 ordering a full report into the conman’s activities.
The department recently told Daily Mail Australia it ‘was aware’ of Asaad, but said it couldn’t comment on individuals.
‘Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa will be liable for detention and removal from Australia,’ a spokesman for the department said.
A $1million FBI bounty on Asaad, announced in 1990, is understood to stand to this day.
Mr Hagler, who has been chasing Asaad for nearly four decades, said he and Ms Kiernan would be ‘right there’ in Australia when he is deported.
‘We’ve got our passports ready to go… I’ve been a huge thorn in his side for many years – and I’m very proud of it,’ he said.
The Department of Home Affairs didn’t respond to Daily Mail Australia’s questions regarding Asaad’s detention and impending deportation.
Ms Kiernan married her teenage sweetheart Todd in 1989. They share two children and live together in Florida.
DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS TIGHT-LIPPED ON ASAAD
The Department of Home Affairs (minister Peter Dutton pictured) said it was aware of Asaad’s case
‘The Department is aware of this case, however cannot comment on individuals,’ a Home Affairs spokesman told Daily Mail Australia.
‘There are strong provisions under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 that allow the Minister or a delegate to refuse or cancel a visa if the person is considered to not be of good character.
‘A person can fail the character test for a number of reasons, including but not limited to where a non-citizen has a substantial criminal record. Such consideration takes into account the circumstances of a case in full, including any countervailing factors that may exist.
‘It is open to a foreign national whose visa has been cancelled or refused to seek judicial review of the decision.
‘Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa will be liable for detention and removal from Australia, pending resolution of any ongoing matters.’
Ms Kiernan is now married to her teenage sweetheart Todd Kiernan. They share two children together. The family is seen in a recent photo
Pictured: Bill Hagler, a former bounty hunter who has captured some of America’s most wanted fugitives. He has been chasing Asaad for decades
‘WHY DID YOU CAUSE SUCH PAIN?’ HEIDI’S HEARTBREAKING OPEN LETTER TO HER CONMAN STEPFATHER – 33 YEARS AFTER HE ABANDONED HER
Although the years have passed. Who I am hasn’t changed. I am the little blonde girl, who you once held in your arms, when I was the tender age of two. I am Heidi Asaad, the little girl who happily called you ‘daddy’.
I was too young to know better. Too young to care. You were daddy. That’s all I knew. The man who bought me M&Ms when my mother would tell me ‘no.’
You were daddy. The man who would take me to Toys r Us every Sunday after church, as my mother would complain, ‘you’re spoiling her!’
You were daddy. The man who had me baptized in a Greek Orthodox Church, when I was five years old. The man who went that extra mile to have a legal document, with your last name. A document that I still have today.
I was too young to understand. Too young to care.
Ms Kiernan (right as a child) wrote in a power open letter to her stepfather (left): ‘I am Heidi Asaad, the little girl who happily called you ”daddy”
You were my daddy, who would be waiting in the car, with sweat dripping from your brow, when my mother would rush me into the car late at night. We would be in a hurry. Leaving on an adventure. ‘We’ll come back for our things’, you would tell me. However, we would never return for them.
You were my daddy, who would often go away. ‘Daddy is on a business trip,’ my mother would tell me. I was too young to not believe my own mother.
While daddy was away on business trips, I would draw pictures for you. Do you remember? Can you count how many drawings I made for you, of a mother cat, with three kittens in a basket? I envisioned you in an office, happily taping my pictures to the wall of your office.
I never doubted your whereabouts. Until my mother began taking me to visit you… in prison.
I was no longer too young to understand. I was no longer too young to care.
It was a burden to carry such a secret at such a young age. Actually, at any age. I couldn’t tell anyone where my daddy was, or where we moved from.
‘You were my daddy, who would often go away. ”Daddy is on a business trip,” my mother would tell me. I was too young to not believe my own mother,’ Ms Kiernan wrote
I would be in school one day and gone the next. Living a life on the run.
Through the years, my mother and I kept following you and visiting you in the different prisons you landed in. I hated it. I hated our family secret. I hated moving so often – never able to keep friends I would make. I hated not able to tell new friends where we moved from.
As I grew older, daddy, you grew meaner. You hurt me… called me awful names.
Each time you were released from prison, you were worse than when you went in. What was happening to my daddy?
When I was 16, you sent me away. You sent me to away to boarding school. Bob Jones Academy. I was getting too old to run with.
Although, I went to Bob Jones Academy kicking and screaming. I thank you. You sent me away from the drama… I went to a school, where I learned how much God loved me.
I came home, with Jesus in my heart.
Two weeks after coming home from school, you had the nervousness, that sweating, that I knew so well. You handed my mother $200. You were skipping a court hearing, that you knew would put you in jail, again. You promised my mother and me that you would send for us, once the dust settled. A normal routine for us.
‘Each time you were released from prison, you were worse than when you went in,’ Ms Kiernan said of Asaad. She is pictured with her future husband Todd when they were 17 years old
I kept a suitcase and a box packed that sat by the door. I was ready for you call at any time. My mother and I waited… and waited… and waited. Not even a phone call.
The money ran out. The jewellery that you told my mother to sell… you took.
You abandoned us, daddy. Our name, Asaad, was all over the news and front page news, along with your mug shot. I was ashamed and embarrassed. Not to mention hungry.
I quit school to work three jobs. I worked from early morning, to late at night. The money still wasn’t enough to buy a 3rd hand car, gas, clothes and food.
You never called. You never sent for us! Daddy! I depended on you since I was two years old and I was still only 17 years old – still needing my daddy.
When I heard you were in jail, Gun Club Road in Palm Beach, I drove my car, with no air conditioner and used the little money I had left for gas. I drove there to see you.
‘Have you ever once thought of the little girl you raised and called you daddy?’ she asked her conman father in the open letter
I was a few minutes late, for visiting hours. But, with my Heidi Asaad identification, I was able to get in to see you. I couldn’t wait to see you! Daddy was back in town. Daddy would save me. I wouldn’t go hungry anymore! Daddy was back.
When I turned the corner, I was surprised to see a pregnant woman in the seat that I was told to sit.
Daddy! Do you remember that day? Every ear in Gun Club prison heard me screaming. How could you abandon me? Start another family, while still married to my mother? Still responsible for me?
I received your letter a few days later. I still have that letter. You promised to still take care of me. Promised to always be my daddy. You signed the letter, ‘Love Daddy’.
Daddy, why did you cause such pain? It’s been over 30 years and it’s a wound that never healed.
Have you ever once thought of the little girl you raised and called you daddy?