Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FRED ASANTE had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in a criminal enterprise based in the Republic of Ghana (” Ghana”) involving the theft of tens of millions of dollars. ASANTE was arrested on February 17, 2021 in Virginia and pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff. ASANTE has been detained since his arrest.
US Attorney Damian Williams said: “Fred Asante today admitted to laundering money from victims of various fraud schemes, including cruel scams targeting seniors online looking for companionship. In addition to the disappointment of learning that their potential soul mate was indeed non-existent, the Asante victims later discovered that they were also the target of a Ghana-based criminal enterprise that raked in over $35 million in illegal proceeds We implore the millions of Americans searching online for that special someone to be extra careful and be especially careful if they are solicited for money or other personal information.
According to the indictment, public documents filed in court and statements made in court:
From at least 2013 to at least 2020 or circa 2020, ASANTE was a member of a Ghana-based criminal enterprise (the “Company”) that committed a series of frauds against individuals and businesses located across the United States , including the Southern District of New York. The frauds perpetrated by the company consisted of, among others, business email compromises, romance scams and fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. First, the objective of the Company’s corporate email compromise fraud scheme was to trick companies into transferring funds to accounts controlled by the Company using email accounts that “spoofed” or spoofed the identity of employees of a victim company or of third parties engaged in commercial activities. with a victim company. Second, the company conducted the romance scams using electronic messages sent via email, text messages or online dating sites that tricked victims, many of whom were vulnerable elderly men and women who lived alone, into their making it appear that the victim was in a romantic relationship with a false identity assumed by members of the Enterprise. Once the Enterprise members gained the victims’ trust by using the fake identity, they used false pretenses to trick the victims into wire money to bank accounts the victims believed were controlled by their romantic interests. , when in fact the bank accounts were controlled by members of the Enterprise. Finally, the Company submitted fraudulent loan applications through a United States Small Business Administration (the “SBA”) loan program designed to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, namely Economic Injury Loan (“EIDL”). Program. The Company submitted fraudulent EIDL applications on behalf of actual companies to the SBA and when an EIDL loan was approved, the funds were ultimately deposited into bank accounts controlled by members of the Company.
ASANTE and other members of the Enterprise received fraudulent proceeds from Enterprise victims into dozens of business bank accounts they controlled in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. The commercial bank accounts were opened in the name of companies formed by ASANTE and other members of the Enterprise which were believed to be involved in, among other things, the sale of automobiles, the import and export of commodities food, as well as trucking and freight forwarding. Once ASANTE received the fraud proceeds in bank accounts under its control, it withdrew, transported and laundered such fraud proceeds to other members of the Company overseas. Defendant primarily laundered the proceeds of the fraud through his business by using the proceeds to purchase automobiles, foodstuffs and other goods from U.S.-based suppliers and distributors of these products and shipping these produced in Ghana and elsewhere. The defendant’s transactions appeared to be legitimate business dealings when, in fact, the products were purchased with the proceeds of fraudulent schemes. This trade-based money laundering scheme was designed to obscure the origin of the proceeds of fraud as well as the identity of the ultimate beneficiaries of these schemes. In total, from 2016 or around 2020 to or around 2020, the defendant controlled over a dozen corporate bank accounts with deposits totaling over $35 million.
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FRED ASANTE, 36, of Fredericksburg, Va., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Under the terms of its plea agreement, ASANTE has agreed to pay a monetary judgment of $647,488 and waive its interest on approximately $323,646 seized by the government from its bank accounts as well as an seized 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE AMG by the government.
ASANTE will be sentenced on May 18, 2022, by Judge Rakoff. ASANTE co-conspirator LORD ANING pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on October 15, 2021, and will be sentenced on February 28, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. before Judge Rakoff.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Bureau’s Complex Fraud and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Sagar K. Ravi, Katherine Reilly and Mitzi Steiner are charged with the prosecution.