A federal court in Boston sentenced a Ghanaian national to 4 1/2 years in prison after he admitted to his involvement in a romance fraud scheme where more than $8 million was stolen from victims.
In a March 21 statement, the Department of Justice said 30-year-old Kofi Osei and his accomplices mostly targeted elderly people in their romance scams. Prosecutors said the convicted man used fake passports with pseudonyms to open at least 77 bank accounts between 2016 and 2020. He is said to have used those accounts to receive and quickly withdraw funds from the fraud victims.
“Osei’s co-conspirators created and used fictitious online dating profiles to capitalize on the victims’ desire for companionship, gain their trust, and direct victims to transfer money based on lies,” the Department of Justice said in the statement. “Osei coordinated with his co-conspirators to receive the fraud proceeds into the bank accounts he opened. He then withdrew the fraud proceeds in cash or with a cashier’s check, sending a portion back to his co-conspirators.”
Authorities said over $8 million in fraud proceeds were received, with $4 million of those funds directly going into accounts that Osei opened and controlled. Prosecutors also said some of the proceeds received from the romance scam were used to purchase cars that were transported to Nigeria and sold, per The Associated Press.
One of their romance scams involved a Florida woman who was informed her supposed online boyfriend had been taken into custody after an explosion on his oil rig, court documents stated. The victim was then made to send over $200,000 to accounts that were controlled by Osei after she was told the funds were needed to facilitate her partner’s release.
An account that Osei controlled also received $65,000 from another victim after she was informed an accident had occurred at her online boyfriend’s overseas worksite. The victim was told the money was going to be used to help workers who sustained injuries in the accident and also secure her jailed boyfriend’s release. Prosecutors said the scam left the victim “financially and emotionally devastated.”
Authorities arrested Osei in February 2021. His conviction also came after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of making a false statement to a bank, six counts of wire fraud, and two counts of money laundering. He entered the plea in September 2022. Besides the prison sentence, Osei was also ordered to pay $4,122,558 in restitution and forfeiture.
In court documents, Osei’s attorney said the convicted man legally came to the U.S. with the aim of becoming a professional soccer player, adding that he was raised in poverty in his native Ghana, The Associated Press reported. The defense also asked the court for leniency, noting that Osei was a loving father who had regretted his actions, and mentioned that Osei, who did not have any prior criminal history, had made “a poor and misguided decision.”