COLUMBUS, Ohio – The final apprehended defendant in a money laundering scheme connected to online romance fraud was sentenced in U.S. District Court here today.
Kwabena M. Bonsu, 32, of Westerville, was sentenced to 36 months in prison for his role in laundering the proceeds of a scheme that defrauded victims nationwide out of more than $3 million total. Bonsu brought other participants into the conspiracy and directed the actions of some of the other members of the conspiracy. He had direct connections to scammers in Ghana who were conducting romance fraud and needed help from people in the United States to get victims’ money from the United States to Ghana.
Six of eight Central Ohio defendants originally charged on Valentine’s Day 2018 have offered guilty pleas and been sentenced in U.S. District Court. Two of the defendants remain fugitives.
Those originally charged in the conspiracy also include: Kwasi A. Oppong (sentenced to 18 months in prison), Kwame Ansah, John Y. Amoah (33 months in prison), Samuel Antwi, King Faisal Hamidu (42 months in prison), Nkosiyoxoxo Msuthu (42 months in prison) and Cynthia Appiagyei (30 months of probation).
Ansah and Antwi are at-large.
According to court documents, individuals committing fraud created several profiles on online dating sites. They then contacted men and women throughout the United States, Canada, and other countries with whom they cultivated a sense of affection, and often, romance.
After establishing relationships, perpetrators of the romance scams 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. The funds were not used for the investment or need-based reasons provided.
The defendants in this case did not perpetrate the romance fraud, but instead laundered the funds from the fraud scheme, using companies and bank accounts in their control. In furtherance of the scheme, Bonsu and his co-conspirators created several companies, some of which were shell companies, to help attempt to hide the true nature of their proceeds. They withdrew the proceeds in cash, wired funds to their coconspirators and to other accounts, and used the fraud proceeds to purchase salvaged vehicles sold online. The financial transactions were meant to conceal the fraud. The cars were commonly exported to Ghana.
The purchase and shipment of vehicles helped conceal the fact that members of the conspiracy were sending proceeds of romance fraud overseas. Some members of the conspiracy found people in Ghana who wanted to purchase vehicles. The people in Ghana who wanted the cars would pay the perpetrators of the romance fraud scheme in Ghana. Under this method, money did not have to be wired overseas, which would have risked attracting the scrutiny of financial institutions.
In total, the defendants laundered more than $3.3 million in proceeds from romance scams.
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Bryant Jackson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Cincinnati Field Office; Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pittsburgh Division; and Vance Callender, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the sentence imposed today by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley. Assistant United States Attorney Peter K. Glenn-Applegate is representing the United States in this case.
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