Robert Asante and two other charged with money laundering conspiracy involving online romance scam
(STL.News) – A federal indictment accuses three central Ohio men of conspiring to launder the proceeds of online romance scams for more than five years.
Those charged include Robert Asante, 35, of Canal Winchester, Kwame Yeboah, 36, of Columbus, and Eric Ahiekpor, 49, of Lewis Center.
According to the indictment, which was unsealed yesterday, individuals committing fraud created several profiles on online dating sites. They then contacted men and women throughout the United States and elsewhere, with whom they cultivated a sense of affection, and often, romance.
After establishing relationships, perpetrators of the romance scams allegedly requested money, typically for investment or need-based reasons, and provided account information and directions for where money should be sent. In part, these accounts were allegedly in the names of the defendants, in the names of the defendants’ family members, and in the names of the defendants’ companies.
The indictment alleges that the funds were not used for the purposes claimed by the perpetrators of the romance scams. Instead, the defendants conducted transactions designed to conceal, such as withdrawing cash, transferring funds to other accounts, buying official checks, sending wires to Ghana, China, and the United States, and more. It is alleged that part of the conspiracy was for the defendants to move the romance fraud proceeds from the United States to Ghana.
“The defendants allegedly laundered proceeds earned from an online romance scam through a series of financial transactions intended to conceal the fraud,” said Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.
Conspiracy to launder money is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, as well as forfeiture of any proceeds involved in the conspiracy. U.S. Marshals arrested Ahiekpor Tuesday. He was arraigned before a U.S. Magistrate Judge yesterday. Asante and Yeboah have court appearances scheduled for Monday, June 29.
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and Pete Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio announced the charges. Assistant United States Attorney Peter K. Glenn-Applegate is representing the United States in this case.