"Love" is increasingly becoming the preferred method of duping people of their money online. As a result of such an illegal operation, three men from central Ohio have been federally indicted for conspiring to launder the earnings from online romance scams for more than five years. The three individuals allegedly used online dating websites to.carry out their criminal activities.
The three men charged are Robert Asante, 35, of Canal Winchester, Kwame Yeboah, 36, of Columbus, and Eric Ahiekpor, 49, of Lewis Center. Ahiekpor was arrested on Tuesday and arraigned on Thursday (June 25). Asante and Yeboah have court appearances scheduled for June 29.
"The defendants allegedly laundered proceeds earned from an online romance scam through a series of financial transactions intended to conceal the fraud," said Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office, in a statement.
Luring Targets Using Dating Websites
According to records, the three accused carried out their fraudulent activities by creating numerous profiles on online dating websites. Subsequently, they established contacts with men and women across the US and other countries. They developed a sense of affection, often romantic in nature with them.
Following the cultivation of the "relationships", the three men romance scammed the people. They allegedly did so by requesting money for need-based or investment reasons and furnishing account details and instructions to where the money should be deposited. These accounts were allegedly in part in the names of the perpetrators, their family members, and in the names of their companies.
Using The Money For Other Purposes
The indictment also alleges that money received through the romance scams were never used for the claimed purposes. Rather, transactions fabricated to conceal, such as buying official checks, transferring funds to other accounts, withdrawing cash, sending wires to Ghana, China, and the United States, were conducted.
Also alleged is that a portion of the conspiracy was to disburse the unlawfully acquired money from the US to Ghana. As a result of the indictment, the three accused face up to up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for conspiring to launder money. In addition to this, any earnings from the conspiracy will also be forfeited.