Former soldier sentenced in “romance scams” that stole $350,000

by Vern Evans

A federal judge recently sentenced a former Army specialist to 40 months in prison on money laundering charges in a series of romance scams that bilked victims of more than $350,000.

Former Spc. Sanda Frimpong, 33, pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering in September. He was sentenced on April 11 in federal court in Raleigh, North Carolina, and must also serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution to victims, according to court documents.

From December 2019 to February 2022, while stationed at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, Frimpong and three other individuals, identified in court documents by initials G.F., F.A. and B.S. “engaged in a series of schemes” to defraud victims by impersonating “romantic love interests, diplomats, customs personnel, military personnel and other fictitious personas,” according to court documents.

Frimpong and his co-conspirators made promises of romance, sharing an inheritance or other scenarios to induce victims to give them money or property.

“Romance scammers exploit our most vulnerable citizens, even our seniors and military veterans, sometimes leaving them financially and emotionally devastated,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley in a press release. “The fact that an Army service member was involved in romance scams while serving as a soldier is appalling.”

The conspirators communicated their schemes using WhatsApp and Snapchat, popular instant messaging platforms.

In one example listed by prosecutors, Frimpong’s group contacted a person named as K.W., a widower, in North Rose, New York in October 2020 and began a virtual relationship with K.W. using a fake persona named “Catherine White.”

After about a month, “White” claimed to need money to pay a holding fee to release gold held in Canada that she’d inherited from her father. “White” told K.W. she’d been contacted by a Canadian customs officer named Sanda Frimpong, who requested K.W. wire the money to Frimpong’s bank account.

“White” sent photos of gold bars, a woman in handcuffs and a counterfeit Canada Border Services Agency document, according to court records.

K.W. wired $6,500 to Frimpong’s account.

Another instance involved a victim identified as A.H. of Lakewood, Illinois who was contacted in early 2021 by a conspirator with the fictitious name “Tom Tanner.” A.H. had recently divorced after 25 years of marriage. “Tanner” claimed to be from Illinois and in the Army deployed to Afghanistan.

“Tanner” proposed marriage to A.H. and later claimed he had access to gold and diamonds but needed money from A.H. to have the assets transferred.

An individual using the fictitious name “Shawn Martins” and claiming to be “Tanner’s” attorney contacted A.H. and convinced A.H. to send a $50,000 cashier’s check to “Martins’” North Carolina address.

“Tanner” later emailed A.H. fraudulent documents showing the transfer of 100kg of gold bars and diamonds to A.H.

A.H. then sent another cashier’s check for $100,000 to Frimpong. Frimpong later wired that money in separate transactions to accounts in Ghana.

While running the romance scams, Frimpong and his co-conspirators also concocted a scheme, beginning in April 2020, to file false applications for funds under the CARES Act, an economic stimulus plan that provided funds, loans and additional support as well as undergirding unemployment benefits put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to court documents.

Frimpong and co-conspirator B.S. applied for unemployment benefits in nearly a dozen states using stolen identification information such as social security numbers.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

Read the full article here

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