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US authorities bust 6 Ghanaians involved in $50m Ghana-based cyber fraud

BY: Jasmine Arku

US Authorities have arrested six Ghanaians based in the USA in connection with their roles in a fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

The six, said to be members of a criminal enterprise based in Ghana, allegedly laundered more than $50 million, which primarily consisted of proceeds of fraud schemes from business email compromises, romance scams targeting elderly and fraudulent small business loans for COVID-19 relief.

The six through their criminal enterprise are alleged to have committed a series of business email compromises and romance scams against individuals and businesses located across the United States.

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. 

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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.             

Charges

Three 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.