US authorities arrest 6 Ghanaians in $50m cyber fraud

  1. US investigators say they have busted a “Ghana-based criminal enterprise”, with the arrest of six of its “ringleaders” in the US on charges of laundering more than $50m (£36m).

“The scams we allege in this investigation include romance scams targeting the elderly, business e-mail compromise scams, and even fraudulent Covid-19 relief loans,” the FBI’s William F. Sweeney said in a statement.

Four of the accused had between them controlled more than 45 bank accounts in which more than $50m had been deposited between 2013 and 2020, the statement alleged.

A vast majority of the deposits consisted of large wire transfers and cheque or cash deposits from various US-based individuals and entities, the statement added.

As part of the investigation, four luxury vehicles suspected to have been purchased with the proceeds of fraud had been seized, the statement said.

The vehicles were:

  • Two 2019 Rolls Royce Cullinans
  • One 2020 Bentley Continental GT
  • One 2020 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG.A statement released by the United States Department for Justice on Wednesday, February 17, named the suspects as Farouk Appiedu, 35, Fred Asante, 35, Celvin Freeman, 47, Lord Aning, 28, Sadick Edusei Kissi, 24, and Faisal Ali, aka “Clarence Graveley, 34.It said the six had been perpetrating the frauds since 2013.According to the statement, four of them collectively controlled more than 45 bank accounts that had deposits totalling approximately $55 million.The four, Appiedu, Asante, Freeman, and Aning received fraud proceeds from victims of the enterprise in dozens of business bank accounts that they controlled in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.They opened the bank accounts in the names of companies they claimed to have formed and were purportedly involved in, among other things, automobile sales, food imports and exports, and freight trucking and shipping.It added that once the proceeds were received by the four in their bank accounts, they withdrew, transported, and laundered the fraud proceeds by using the proceeds to purchase automobiles, food products, and other goods from US-based suppliers and distributors of such products and shipped those products to Ghana and elsewhere.  Kissi is said to have received fraud proceeds from victims of the enterprise in bank accounts that he controlled in the Bronx, New York and elsewhere.Once he received the fraud proceeds in bank accounts under his control, Kissi withdrew, transported, and laundered those fraud proceeds to other members of the enterprise located in Ghana.Ali also received fraud proceeds from victims of the enterprise into a series of at least 13 bank accounts at six different banks, which he controlled in the Bronx, New York.He used the name and identity of another person to open several of those bank accounts in order to conceal the proceeds of the fraud scheme.Upon receiving the fraud proceeds in the bank accounts under his control, he withdrew, transported, and laundered those fraud proceeds to other members of the enterprise.ChargesThree of the suspects, Appiedu, Asante, Freeman, and Aning have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.Each of them has also been charged with one count of conspiracy to receive stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and one count of receipt of stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.Kissi has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, with each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.He has also been charged with one count of conspiracy to receive stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and one count of receipt of stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.Ali has also been charged in a criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of making false statements to a bank, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; one count of conspiracy to receive stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

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