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Ghanaian jailed by US court over US$36m scam, to repay US$2.9m

Three months on from when he was convicted for money laundering, a US-based Ghanaian, Fred Asante, has been jailed 9 years by a court in the Southern District of New York in the United States.

Initially arrested on February 17, 2021, as a member of a criminal money laundering syndicate in Ghana, the convict pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in February 2022.

According to the May 18 judgement handed by District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, aside from his jail term, the 37-year-old was sentenced to three years of supervised release.

He is also ordered to make two financial payments – forfeiture to the tune of US$647,488 and restitution in the amount of US$2,292,486.71.

Over US$36.4m stolen in four years

According to court records, Fred was leader of the criminal enterprise that scammed American individuals and firms to the tune of over $36.4 million over a four-year period.

Most of their victims – about 80 in total – were lured through online romances through which the scammers illegally applied for US federal COVID-19 loans.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Fred Asante set up companies that appeared to be involved in legitimate business, but in reality they were simply fronts that he used to receive and launder millions of dollars for a criminal enterprise in Ghana that defrauded American businesses and individuals through online scams.

“Asante will now serve a substantial term in prison for his money-laundering operation. We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who participate in the money side of the fraud business.”

Modus operandi

His modus operandi according to court documents was by operating 19 bank accounts across over 10 different banks as part of his money-laundering operation.

Deposits made through these accounts were approximated at $36.4 million the period spanning September 2016 through to January 2021.

Also, the statement indicated that Asante and members of the “Enterprise” have committed frauds against individuals and businesses United States (US), including in the Southern District of New York.

“The frauds perpetrated by the Enterprise have consisted of, among other frauds, business email compromises, romance scams, and fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.

It added that the “Enterprise” defrauded Americans by impersonating businesses and individuals through emails and also by conducting romance scams by using electronic messages sent via email, text messaging, or online dating websites.

What US Attorneys said about Asante in February 2022

In a statement shared by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the state attorney, Damian Williams, announced that Fred Asante was part of a criminal gang in Ghana called the “Enterprise” which was involved in the theft of tens of millions of dollars.

“Fred Asante admitted today to laundering money from victims of various fraud schemes, including cruel scams targeting elderly online daters searching for companionship.

“Compounding the disappointment of learning their potential soulmate was indeed non-existent, Mr Asante’s victims later found they were also targets of a Ghana-based criminal enterprise netting over $35 million in illegal proceeds,” has reported.

The state attorney urged Americans “looking for someone special online” to be very cautious.

Fred’s co-conspirator, Lord Anning, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on October 15, 2021, was sentenced on February 28, 2022.

Source: Ghanaweb

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