(STL.News) – Suleman Alhassan, 37, a Ghanaian national residing in Charlotte, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler today and pleaded guilty to wire and mail fraud conspiracy, for perpetrating romance and precious metal scams against older victims, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
David M. McGinnis, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and John Eisert, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte join U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.
According to filed plea documents and today’s plea hearing, beginning in or about March 2016, Alhassan and his unindicted co-conspirators operated a romance scheme based, in part, in Ghana and in Charlotte. Using fake identities, Alhassan and his co-conspirators used online dating websites and other methods to target potential fraud victims, who were frequently elderly, with false promises of a romantic relationship. As part of the scheme and in addition to developing fake romantic relationships with the victims, Alhassan and others falsely claimed to own large quantities of gold located in Ghana, and falsely told victims that the victims needed to send money to Alhassan and his co-conspirators to pay for shipping the gold from Ghana to the United States and other countries where it could be sold. As Alhassan admitted in court today, he and his co-conspirators falsely told the victims that they would receive a share of the profits when the gold was sold or brought into the United States.
Alhassan and his co-conspirators further induced victims to send funds under the guise of securing travel documents for the person with whom the victims believed to be in a romantic relationship. To convince victims to send even more money, Alhassand and his co-conspirators used fictitious problems, including problems with travel visas and customs related issues, and continued to call, text, and e-mail the victims and insist that additional money was needed, until the victims either ran out of money or discovered the fraudulent nature of the scheme. The total loss associated with the scheme exceeds $1 million.
Alhassan is currently detained. The mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set.
USPIS and HSI led the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jenny G. Sugar, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.
In March 2019, Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced the Office’s Elder Justice Initiative, which aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educate older adults on how to identify scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud; and promote greater coordination with law enforcement partners. For more information please visit: https://edit.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/elder-justice-initiative.