On the third day of his trial this week in federal court in Columbus, a Westerville pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder the proceeds of online romance scams for at least two years.
Edward Amankwah, 45, admitted Wednesday to conspiring to launder nearly $4.3 million through bank accounts in his control and agreed to pay approximately $4.29 million in restitution as part of his plea, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Columbus.
Federal prosecutors say Amankwah was responsible for laundering the proceeds of the scams involving himself and others indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2021.
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The romance scams involved individuals who created several profiles, some purporting to be members of the military, on online dating sites. They then contacted victims throughout the United States and abroad, with whom they cultivated romance.
After establishing relationships, perpetrators of the romance scams requested money, typically for investment or need-based reasons, and provided account information and directions for where money should be sent, prosecutors said. In part, these accounts were in the names of Amankwah and the other defendants, their family members and their companies.
The money was not used for the claimed purposes, but instead Amankwah and other defendants concealed the funds, transferring it to other accounts, including moving money from the United States to Ghana and China, prosecutors said.
Amankwh's trial began Monday. During the first two days of trial, five victims testified about being defrauded, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
As part of the romance fraud scheme, the victims were directed to send money to business bank accounts in the control of Amankwah. For example, one victim was defrauded by a purported member of the military who said he wanted to retire early and needed money to do so. The victim sent two wire transfers totaling $131,400 to Amankwah's accounts.
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Another victim fell in love with a person who claimed he owned a mine in Canada and needed help covering operating expenses. The victim sent $70,000 to one of Amankwah's accounts.
Yet another victim began an online relationship with a man who claimed to be in the military in Afghanistan and sent four wire transfers totaling more than half a million dollars to bank accounts in the control of Amankwah.
On the morning of the third day of trial, Amankwah pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Six other defendants charged with money laundering in the case have pleaded guilty and are also awaiting sentencing.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Westerville man pleads guilty to role in online dating site scam