A Houston man was recently indicted for participating in a nationwide romance fraud scheme. The scheme allegedly bilked victims out of millions of dollars from 2014 to 2019 before the defendant, Kenneth Anim, was arrested by federal investigators. If convicted, he could face years in federal prison on charges of illegal wire transfers and money laundering.
Mr. Anim and an associate created fake online profiles and then lured unwary victims into falling in love. This type of fraud always has one goal in mind: convincing the target to send the scammers money.
Another term for this type of fraud would be “catfishing.” A scammer impersonates a person on social media or dating sites to make a connection. As the relationship blossoms, the impersonator begins to ask for money. The victim, feeling the first stirrings of love, starts to send wire transfers and money orders.
The online nature of the relationship helps facilitate the scam. The fraudster and victim almost never meet and rarely speak on the phone. Consequently, victims remain in the dark, sometimes for years. And fraudsters can pretend to be male or female, doubling the pool of potential victims.
Mr. Anim’s scheme ultimately chiseled more than $5 million from innocent people around the country. One man in Maryland, believing he was talking to a woman, paid over $1 million. Another female victim met the scammer on Facebook, who convinced her that Customs and Border control had taken his gold and money. The victim fell for the story and sent nearly $70,000.
Ran Bank Accounts Involved in Fraud
According to the Justice Department, Anim is not the sole participant in the scheme. In fact, he might not have even created the fake profiles. There was at least one other co-conspirator who remains unindicted.
However, his name was in incorporation documents for the businesses where victims sent money. In fact, Anim managed these bank accounts. The feds described Anim’s role as a “money mule,” meaning he transferred illegally obtained funds at the direction of other people.
The U.S. Magistrate overseeing the case denied the defendant’s request to be released before trial. Because the victim is also a citizen of Ghana, the judge felt he was a risk of fleeing.
Catfishing Can Get You in Trouble
Many people might turn to catfishing because they need a little extra cash. Before too long, they are neck deep in various schemes to defraud innocent victims. It is not illegal to ask a person you are flirting with online for help with bills. It is illegal to pretend to be someone else and steal from them using lies and other artifices. As the above example shows, you might even draw the attention of the feds and could end up in the federal pen.
If you are accused of fraud, contact a Houston white collar crimes lawyer at Tad Nelson & Associates today. We can quickly review the allegations and determine the strength of the case against you. Sometimes there is an innocent explanation, such as someone stealing your identity to perpetrate a scam. Contact us to learn more.