Some Ghanaians have been arrested and charged in the United States of America over their alleged involvement in a $30 million money laundering and internet fraud in that country.
The 24 member syndicate made up of mostly Ghanaians and Nigerians were arrested in a joint operation under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the Department of Justice.
The suspects who are facing a Federal Court in Atlanta, Georgia were said to be engaged in large-scale fraud and money laundering with their primary targets being citizens, corporations, and financial institutions throughout the United States.
Internet fraud popularly known as “sakawa” is rife among the teeming unemployed youths in both Ghana and Nigeria. The phenomenon has even inspired movies, songs, and documentaries. Most of those involved in the practice have justified on the basis that it amounts to some sort of reparation for slavery. Others, however, are of the view that, its a form of redistribution of wealth.
Some of these young fraudsters have suddenly become breadwinners of their respective families as some make more money than their parents ever did through their 9 am to 5 pm jobs.
According to files from the US Justice officials, the suspects busted in the multi-million dollar fraud scheme often targeted the elderly and vulnerable and preyed on the innocence of such people to dupe them of their life savings and hard-earned investments.
“Fraud schemes, like the ones perpetrated and facilitated by these defendants, inflict considerable losses on citizens, companies, and the financial system…..Some of these schemes target the elderly and often deplete the victims’ entire life savings. These arrests affirm the Department of Justice’s commitment to prosecuting those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said.
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the suspects fronted as money launderers for other individuals globally who were involved in cyber fraud, romance scams, and retirement account scams, targeted at companies and individuals across the United States.
Months of investigations revealed how the syndicate opened business bank accounts at multiple financial institutions to facilitate receipt of the fraudulent money. The defendants through false identities also opened personal bank accounts to receive the fraudulent funds.
One of the suspects, Darius Sowah Okang who has been charged with one count of bank fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft is said to have created a bank account in a retirement scam victim’s name. Funds totaling $288,000 were then withdrawn fraudulently from the victim’s retirement account.
Afeez Olaide Adeniran and Blessing Ojo are also charged with wire fraud in excess of $646,000. The two are said to have defrauded a homebuyer of $40,000 intended for a real estate transaction. The facts are that they capitalized on computer intrusion and false invoicing scam and caused a media company in California to send payments totaling $89,140 to a bank account controlled by one of their surrogates. Thereafter the victim continually sent hundreds and thousands of dollars to the suspects before they were busted.
The 24 member syndicate of mostly Ghanaians and Nigerians face deportation to their home countries after serving their sentences.
“No one deserves to have their hard-earned money stolen from them, so identifying and arresting these defendants makes everyone in the community safer…Foreign nationals arrested in this scheme will be placed into removal proceedings upon completion of their criminal sentence,” acting Special Agent in Charge, Robert Hammer, who oversees the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama said.