Man uses fake profiles to catfish victims and swindle them out of RM4.66mil, US feds say

Also known as confidence scams or catfishing, the crimes often start on dating apps or social media sites, according to experts. — Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

An Ohio man was indicted by a grand jury after authorities say he created fake online profiles to swindle people out of more than US$1mil (RM4.66mil).

The 37-year-old, of Fairfield, is facing a seven-count indictment on fraud and money laundering charges. McClatchy Newscould not find attorney’s information listed for him.

Between January 2019 through July 2021, the man worked with others to create fake online profiles, which he used to “express romantic interest” in people, the indictment said, according to a Dec 7 news release from the US Attorney’s Office Southern District of Ohio.

“Once the victim believed he or she was in a romantic relationship with the person pictured in the online profile, the co-conspirators, using false pretences, would convince the victims to send money by mail or by wire transfer,” officials said.

In one example, the accused scammers would convince people they were expecting a large inheritance of gold and needed financial help to bring it to the United States. In some cases they would say they needed money for a plane ticket or medical expenses, according to officials.

The man then laundered part of the US$1mil (RM4.66mil) he received from scamming people through multiple bank accounts, prosecutors said. The money was laundered through wire transfers to accounts in Africa, officials said. He would say the transfers were for paying workers, family expenses and other things, according to officials.

He is also accused of making false statements to the Small Business Administration in a Payment Protection Program loan application, authorities said. By doing so, he fraudulently received more than US$20,000 (RM93,320) in Covid relief, according to officials.

He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of wire fraud, two counts of international money laundering, two counts of concealment money laundering, and one count of making false statements to an agent of the United States.

If he’s found guilty, he will face up to 25 years in prison. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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