At least six Ghanaians have been charged by a US grand jury for conspiring to launder and for laundering money in online romance scams.
These Ghanaians were among eight persons charged on February 14, 2018, according to a statement from the Attorney General of the US Southern District of Ohio’s office.
Eight Central Ohio defendants charged on Valentine’s Day have now been indicted by a grand jury for conspiring to launder and for laundering the proceeds of online romance scams.
The eight persons have been identified as Kwabena M. Bonsu, Kwasi A. Oppong, Kwame Ansah, John Y. Amoah, Samuel Antwi, King Faisal Hamidu, NkosiyoxoxoMsuthu and Cynthia Appiagyei.
According to the indictment, the accused exhibited fraudulent intent when they created several profiles on online dating sites.
They are believed to have defrauded at least 26 victims who have been identified thus far.
They contacted men and women throughout the United States “with whom they cultivated a sense of affection, and often, romance”.
“After establishing relationships, perpetrators of the romance scams allegedly requested money, typically for investment or need-based reasons, and provided account information and directions for where money should be sent. In part, these accounts were controlled by the defendants. Typical wire amounts ranged from $10,000 to more than $100,000 per wire,” the statement revealed.
The Attorney General’s office said the money was not used for the purposes claimed by the fraudsters but instead used for “transactions designed to conceal, such as withdrawing cash, transferring funds to other accounts and purchasing assets and sending the assets overseas.”
It is also alleged that the individuals used some of the fraud proceeds to purchase salvaged vehicles sold online for export to Ghana.
Fictitious reasons for investment requests included gold, diamond, oil and gas pipeline opportunities in Africa.
Websites used involve Match.com, Christian Mingle.com, Baby Boomer People Meet.com, PlentyofFish.com, OurTime.com, EHarmony.com and Facebook.
In one example, a victim believed she was in a serious relationship with a person named “Frank Wilberg” whom she met on Match.com. She believed they planned to marry and paid $3,000 to reserve a wedding site, and had purchased a wedding gown and shoes.
“Wilberg” told the victim he owned a consulting firm that tested gold for purity and needed money to buy gold and gold contracts. He said he expected to profit $6million and would repay her with the profits. The victim wired money to accounts controlled by Amoah, Bonsu, Msuthu, and Appiagyei, and did not receive any money back.
In furtherance of the scheme, the co-conspirators allegedly created several companies, some of which were shell companies, to help attempt to hide the true nature of their proceeds.
“The defendants attempted to launder millions of dollars in proceeds earned from an online romance scam through a series of financial transactions intended to conceal their illegal activities,” said Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and HSI, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Peter K. Glenn-Applegate, who is prosecuting the case.
An indictment merely contains allegations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.